A 360 degree view of fieldwork
As travel restrictions and social distancing measures are in place, we have turned to technology to provide a virtual experience to enhance the learning experience for participants of our training course.
Using 360˚ videos we have created a virtual field trip for training purposes. Participants are guided on how to optimise their immersive experience while exploring five different scenes. They are asked to respond to sound and visual cues, aided by an audio narrative and brief text-based prompts, and to take note of animals, plants and other relevant observations while “in the field”.
The “field” data is then used to determine the presence of High Conservation Values or HCVs (biological, ecological, social or cultural values that are considered outstandingly significant or critically important, at the national, regional or global level) and High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests, which are distinct from degraded lands with low carbon and biodiversity values. Both these assessments are used to aid decision-making in land management within production landscapes.
After twenty minutes of immersion, participants are tested on what they have observed using polls and facilitated breakout discussion about the field trip, which allows them to learn from each other.
One participant said:
“I must say that the virtual tour was a first experience for me. Overall, I enjoyed learning the entire session … and I am hoping that there will be more virtual tour sessions during the course.’’
Although physical training courses involving actual field visits will eventually be possible, once travel restrictions are eased, it is expected that there will be continued demand for online courses, which allow for efficiencies in terms of travel costs and time.
“People have been really receptive to the innovation and the value the 360˚ field trip added to the overall training experience,” said Ying Xuen, project manager at Proforest, who led the use of immersive technologies in training delivery. “Often new technology can be intimidating, particularly in a short course like this, but the virtual field trip is easy to adapt to and has been an incredibly useful and engaging tool to continue our capacity building efforts.”
“The application of augmented reality provides a new dimension for training, not just for HCV-HCS courses, but other related training in Conservation and Land Use,” said Surin Suksuwan, director of Proforest Southeast Asia. “Even when field-based training is feasible again I believe there will always be opportunities for using immersive technology to simulate field visits when there is limited time or budget.”