Liquid Galaxy Uses at UNC Chapel Hill
By Ben Witten · Thursday, December 29, 2016
An article was posted on The Tech Broadcast last week that featured the UNC Chapel Hill Center for Faculty Excellence's Faculty Showcase. The faculty showcase included a fantastic presentation featuring the many ways students and faculty use their Liquid Galaxy, and discussed other opportunities for using the system in the future.
Exciting examples cited of great classroom successes making use of the Liquid Galaxy include:
A course offered at UNC, Geography 121 People and Places, requires its students to sift through data sets and spend time in the GIS lab/research hub making maps using the data they've collected. The goal of this assignment is to demonstrate understanding of diversity within particular geographic entities. The students use the Liquid Galaxy to present their findings. Examples of studies done for this project include studies of fertility, infant mortality, income inequality, poverty, population density, and primary education.
A group of students working in lab found that the household income of a particular municipality was many times greater than all surrounding municipalities. By looking around on the Liquid Galaxy, they discovered an enormous plantation in a very rural area. They were then able to understand how that plantation skewed the data from the entire municipality.
While studying a web map, students found that average life expectancy dropped by a decade within a very short distance. They decided to look at the Liquid Galaxy to see whether they could make any conclusions by viewing the area. By using the Liquid Galaxy, the students were able to think about what the data looks like, not just statistically but on Earth.
A Geography teacher had a lecture about the geography of Vietnam. The teacher used the Liquid Galaxy to give the class a tour of Vietnam and show how the different areas factored into the course. The teacher asked the class where within Vietnam they’d like to go, and was able to take the students to the different geographical areas on the Liquid Galaxy and tell them in detail about those areas while they had the visual support of the system.
A geography class called The Geography of Latin America focuses on extractive industries. The class discusses things like agriculture in South America, and the percentage of land in Brazil that is used for soy production. The faculty reports that seeing this information in an immersive environment goes a long way in teaching the students.
Urban planning students use the Liquid Galaxy when looking into urban revitalization. Uses for these students include using the system to visit the downtown areas and see firsthand what the areas look like to better understand the challenges that the communities are facing.
Students and faculty have come to LG to look at places that they are about to travel to abroad, or thinking about traveling abroad, in order to prepare for their travels. An example given was a Master of Fine Arts student who was a sculptor and was very interested in areas where there are great quantities of rocks and ice. She traveled around on the the Liquid Galaxy and looked around in Iceland. Researching the system on the Liquid Galaxy helped to pique her interest and ultimately led to her going to Iceland to travel and study.
During the faculty showcase, faculty members listed off some of the great benefits of having the Liquid Galaxy as a tool that was available to them.
The Liquid Galaxy brought everyone together and fostered a class community. Teachers would often arrive to classes that utilize the Liquid Galaxy and find that half the students were early to class. Students would be finding places (their homes, where they studied abroad, and more) and friendships between students would develop as a result of the Liquid Galaxy.
Liquid Galaxy helps students with geographic literacy. They are able to think about concepts covered in class, and fly to and observe the locations discussed.
Students often bring parents and family to see the Liquid Galaxy, which is widely accessible to students on campus. Students are always excited to share what they're doing with the system, with family and with faculty.
Faculty members have commented that students that don’t ask questions in class have been very involved in the Liquid Galaxy lessons, which could be in part because some students are more visual learners. These visual learners find great benefit in seeing the information displayed in front of them in an interactive setting.
From a faculty standpoint, a lot of time was spent planning and trying to work out the class structure, which has developed a lot. Dedicating class-time for the Liquid Galaxy was beneficial, and resulted in teaching less but in more depth and in different ways. The teacher thinks there was more benefit to that, and it was a great learning experience for all parties involved.
Faculty members expressed interest and excitement when learning more about the Liquid Galaxy and the ways it is used. There was a lot of interest in using the Liquid Galaxy for interdisciplinary studies between different departments to study how different communities and cultures work. There was also interest in further utilization of the system’s visualization capabilities. A professor from the School of Dentistry spoke of how he could picture using the Liquid Galaxy to teach someone about an exam of the oral cavity through the LG. Putting up 3D models of the oral cavity using our new Sketchfab capabilities would be a perfect way to achieve this!
We at End Point were very excited to learn more about the many ways that Liquid Galaxy is being successfully used at UNC as a tool for research, for fun, and to bring together students and faculty alike. We look forward to seeing how UNC, among the many other research libraries that use Liquid Galaxy, will implement the system in courses and on campus in the future.