A 3D model used in the course
How are you using 3D models in your course?
I used 3D models of animal skulls for the lab portion of my course Forest Wildlife Ecology and Management. In Canvas, there is a page for each lab session which is released each week. Once the virtual lab is “open”, students can go to that lab page and work through the material on their own time. On the top of each lab page, there is an intro video with the week’s key concept, instructions on how to interact with the 3D models, and what features to look for in each 3D model. Students then scroll down to read the lab material to interact with the 3D models embedded on the page.
What was the result?
Watching the video of the TA manipulating the 3D model gave students a good idea of what to pay attention to, but students also appreciated the option to control the 3D model on their own and decide where to look at, where to zoom for a closer look, and spend as much time as they want on a specimen.
As much as 3D models are interactive and give students a different way to absorb information, 3D models themselves don’t automatically “impress” or excite students. Having access to 3D models in the virtual lab didn’t necessarily replicate the excitement of seeing and touching the real specimens during an in-person lab. It’s key to consider what aspects of learning can be enhanced by the multi-dimensional nature of 3D models.
What advice do you have for instructors who are considering using 3D models in their course?
Definitely explore 3D content as a possible medium. 3D content is a richer medium than still images or narrative videos.
Consider first using 3D models in a synchronous session (e.g., via Zoom, Collaborate, or in-person lab) so students are looking at your screen as you are interacting with the 3D model. Then, get the students involved in how to interact with the 3D models. Next, encourage students to ask questions about how to use the 3D models and how the models can help better understand the course material or prepare for an exam.
Getting the students involved would be a good way to get them excited about the 3D models, convey the importance of the 3D models in the course, and get immediate feedback on how students perceive the 3D models.
What are your next steps?
I would like to add context to the 3D models. For example, add video clips of the live animals in their natural habitat. When students only see the 3D model of the skull, it’s difficult to make the connection between the animal and evolution and how morphology supports their ecological functions.
I would also like to connect with other instructors to hear their experience using 3D models in their courses!