Virtual field course brings Yosemite National Park to Worcester

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Two University of Worcester lecturers have recently returned from the USA’s most spectacular national park after working to develop a virtual field course which is to be taught to undergraduate students on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dr. Ian Maddock, Principal Lecturer in Physical Geography, and Des McDougall, Head of Geography and Archaeology, travelled to Yosemite National Park to collaborate with colleagues from the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California at Davis.

They spent twelve days in the national park, collecting data for the virtual field course including video footage, high resolution photo panoramas, time-lapse photography and sound clips, all of which will be integrated into the virtual field course, to be taught at both universities.

Dr Maddock explains: “The fieldwork was carried out jointly with colleagues at UC Davis, led by Dr Sarah Yarnell, who provided a lot of help and support on the ground with the data collection as well as with the subsequent creation of the virtual field course.

“Both Universities place a strong emphasis on hands-on practical skills and real fieldwork and hence it was a great opportunity to collaborate. A virtual field course doesn’t replace a real field course, but is used as preparation for it.

This will be the fourth virtual field course we have developed for our students at Worcester and will provide an immersive environment for them to interpret and evaluate river and glacial landforms and processes in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California as part of their Geography degree.

We will use it within our classroom based Mountain Environments, Landscapes and Hazards module which prepares our students for the follow-up, which is to assess similar features on a real field course in the European Alps.”

For further information on Geography courses at the University of Worcester, visit