Virtual field tour in bachelor course: Introduction to water treatment

360-degree virtual tour alternative for those who cannot join site visit.

For the Batchelor course “introduction to water treatment” the Faculty of Civil Engineering and Geosciences at the Delft University of Technology organises a field trip to a waste water treatment plant. Not all students can to join this trip, due to organisational limitations.

For students who do not join the trip, it is very hard to imagine the real scale/ dimensions/spatial overview of such a plant. This is reflected in outcome of their calculations when performing design calculations on a plant. They do not realise they made a mistake by looking at the dimensional result obtained. This is an unwanted situation.

In the current innovation, a 360 degree virtual tour was designed to solve this problem. The usage of such tour opens up other (educational) benefits.

The lectures in this course mainly consist of photos or schematic visualisations of wastewater treatment plants. This does not give insights into the dimensions of the plant. During the field trip, the students get a much better view of the plant size, installation sizes, the sludge, the water flow etc. However, only 20 students out of 120 can join the field trip and get this insight.

The solution for this gap was found in the development of a 360 degrees virtual tour in which students are able to get an experience close to real life (apart from the smell !). The development of the tour in itself was a design development project in which camera, system, storytelling and their interaction, all played a role. This work will be reported later.

Current virtual tours for educational purposes can be expensive. In this innovation the 360-degree spherical video and photo technology was used to develop a relative cheap and realistic tour. The images can be placed in a sequence with an interactive walk through the plant, and audio and textual information is added to create the tour.

The first evaluation of the tour design has been done with a small group of students (11): it was cool, and fun to use. Not all students were familiar with the usage of VR headsets and needed more explanation on the usage.

The evaluation of the usage of this tour on the learning outcome still needs to be assessed. Once done this will be added to this document.

  • The virtual tour can be used for other needs, by altering and or adding parts for specific needs.
  • Students can watch the tour at their own pace and convenience.
  • The field trips are delivered by the employees of the plant. Although the learning objectives have been clearly communicated, it is unknown what is actually said. By using a virtual tour which is well scripted, all learning objectives are covered. Therefor the learning objectives are under control.
  • The students can watch and listen again to those parts that they do not understand.
  • The number of students for a virtual tour is unlimited
  • More parts of the plant can be shown in the 360 tour compared to a real field trip. Recording is e.g. done also at unsafe places, which you cannot access during a normal field trip.
  • The script has been written by students and reviewed by the professor. For both this was a great learning.
  • Trips to other, not easily accessible places e.g. drilling/oil platforms, can also use this 360 degree virtual tour concept
  • It is important to first establish whether a 360 virtual tour will contribute to the learning objectives. It is labour intense to made this tour and the costs can be high.
  • Currently nausea is a side effect of the virtual reality glasses if one turns ones head to fast. This issue needs to be solved by technology companies.
  • The effect of the usage of this tour on the learning outcomes needs to be established and is the next step to determine for this innovation.