Richard Hamelin | Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences

Richard Hamelin | Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences  

One of the 3D models used in the course

How did you use 3D models in your course? 

I included 12 3D models of tree diseases caused by fungi and mistletoe parasites in my Canvas course. 3D models were available on the Canvas lab pages so students were able to examine the specimens up close whenever they wanted. In my previous class, students could only see the physical specimens during the 2-hour lab. Furthermore, hands-on examination of the specimens was limited to minimize wear and tear. By using 3D models, limited access is no longer an issue. Students could view the specimens whenever they want throughout the course.

What advice do you have for instructors who are considering using 3D models in their course?

Supplement 3D models with close-up photos or diagrams. Some specimen details are difficult to capture or highlight in a 3D model. In particular, close-ups of fine details don’t always show up in 3D models. Use additional photos, text descriptions, or diagrams alongside the 3D models to convey the important message. 

Give yourself enough time to become familiar with the 3D models. 3D models convey information differently than photos or videos. Students also interact with 3D models differently than they do looking at a diagram or watching a video. Spend some time with the 3D model and consider exactly how it is deployed in your course. Are you embedding the 3D model directly in your course and students are to interact with it on their own? Will you provide instruction guiding students to look at specific areas of the 3D model? Will you record an instructional video of you using the 3D model to demonstrate a concept?

Make the 3D models downloadable. Inevitably, some students will have a slow internet connection. Those with a slow internet connection will experience a long load time each time they access the 3D model. By enabling students to download a copy to their computer, students can repeatedly view the 3D model without an internet connection.

What are your next steps? 

It’s an ongoing process to refine the 3D models so they make a bigger impact in my course. For example, I plan to use fresh specimens so the details will show up better in the 3D rendering. I will also include the natural environment where the specimen can be found in the 3D model so students can see the context. 

Overall, the 3D models provide students much greater access to the specimens so I plan to use 3D models in my teaching even when we return to face-to-face instruction past COVID-19.