Borneo rain forests

Mobile virtual reality in environmental education

20161124_142720 (1).jpg

Year 7, Geography field trip of Prestwood Nature Reserve

Case study on the use of Google Expeditions in outdoor fieldwork

Our paper has been published in Journal of Virtual Studies, vol. 9, no. 2, 2018, pp. 25-36. 

In this paper, we have reported students' experiences of using Google Expeditions, a mobile virtual reality application, to learn about the environmental impact of large scale developments on nature reserves. Students were on a geography field trip to Prestwood Nature Reserve not very far from their school. They looked at Borneo rain forests via the Google Expeditions app while in the field and became aware of the issues created by large-scale development on the environment. They were able to discuss and reflect on the implications of planned large scale development (a high speed railway, called HS2) close to their local nature reserve (that they were visiting) in the Chilterns. 

The pdf file of the entire issue of the journal is here (1.7 MB)


We are grateful to our colleague, Dr Trevor Collins, Knowldege Media Institute, UK's Open University, who guided us on how we (the research team) could use Google Expeditions and the kit (mobile phones, router and the Tablet) in an outdoor field trip.

Mrs Melanie Collins, Head of Humanities, Pipers Corner School, ran the field trip and is one of the authors of this paper.  


The Open University (OU), UK, has been conducting a school-based research project (funded by Google and the OU) on the potential use of mobile virtual reality via Google Expeditions in science and geography in school education.

Google Expeditions is a mobile virtual reality (VR) which is being promoted by Google in schools globally. Google Expeditions are guided tours (field trips) of places that students experience on a smartphone through a virtual reality viewer called Google cardboard

An expedition in the Google Expeditions (GEs) app comprises of 360-degree photospheres of places and events - for example, Buckingham Palace; The Great Barrier Reef and the coral bleaching in the Reef due to climate change; the Borneo Rainforest and the International Space Station. These visualisations enable students and educators to experience places that may be hard or even impossible to visit in real life.

The GEs app (available for Android and iOS platforms) has over 700 expeditions.

Using a tablet and via the GEs app, the educator guides the students to look at the scenes of an expedition. The students use the app in the ‘follower’ mode and experience the GE/VR through the smart-phone embedded within a VR viewer.


For more pointers to blog-posts and news items related to our research on Google Expeditions, please see our project web-page on Google Expeditions.

Related blog post to this paper is here: Connecting the learning from an international context to a local context in geography fieldwork via Google Expeditions


Professor Shailey Minocha and Dr Ana-Despina Tudor at The Open University, UK 

Dr. Matthew Kam, Research Lead, Google Education Products Team

The project partners in the UK are:

Field Studies Council (Dr Steve Tilling and Mr Dave Morgan);

Association for Science Education (Mr Richard Needham and Ms Marianne Cutler); and

Geographical Association (Ms Becky Kitchen).