Field experience is the most effective way for students to learn, but in some cases, they cannot enjoy a field activity in person, particularly during the current global COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, the University of Milan – Department of Environmental Science and Policy – with the support of CTU (Teaching and Learning Innovation and Multimedia Technology Centre) has developed a scientific project aimed at offering an immersive and inclusive educational tool to allow all students to visit an alpine glacier and to be virtually part of the scientific team that study it. Indeed, glaciers are among the most sensitive components of the landscape to climate change, and their study allows assessing the effects of global warming directly.
On this website, you can test this “immersive experience” on an alpine glacier that we consider an open-air scientific laboratory. Educational immersive videos are more engaging than documentaries because the student is not a spectator but a protagonist, and the most recent findings in psychology, pedagogy and disciplinary education confirm that they are more satisfying and effective.
Our immersive videos were filmed on the Forni Glacier in the Italian Alps with an 8-sensor video camera that shoots simultaneously in all directions of space. The user can thus explore what is “around” while watching. They last less than 5 min to prevent the natural decrease in attention and are subtitled in English to allow the growing number of international non-native Italian speaking students of the University of Milan to enjoy them.
The most important experience for a student is a field activity to visit a site, recognize processes and phenomena, and assess their effects on the landscape and the ecosystems. But when this is not possible, immersive videos are a valid alternative to bring outdoor sites, particularly mountain glaciers, closer to students and people.