Using Computer Visualisations to Educate and Communicate Volcanic Hazards to At-Risk Communities
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With an increase in the number of people living in proximity to active volcanic centres worldwide, there is a greater need to provide effective and engaging education and outreach programmes to reduce vulnerability and prepare exposed communities for potential future volcanic eruptions. The finalisation of the Sendai Framework (UNISDR, 2015a) has also cemented the need for disaster risk managers to engage at-risk communities with education and outreach programmes, to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by volcanic eruptions worldwide.
Education and outreach programmes are already commonplace for disaster risk reduction, with many taking the form of traditional presentations, maps, diagrams, TV and radio broadcasts. In recent years, there has been a shift towards the use of more creative media to communicate volcanic hazards and engage populations in outreach activities. These have included films, comic strips, puppet shows, board games and video games. However, to-date there is little empirical evidence for the use of these media with at-risk communities. This research seeks to address this issue by providing evidence for the effective use of creative media for volcanic hazard education by adopting the use of video games (or serious games).
To assess how effective serious games could be as an education tool, a bespoke video game (St. Vincent’s Volcano) was developed collaborative with disaster risk agencies and communities on the Eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent and then trialled with adults and students from across the island. A range of outreach sessions were adopted to compare and contrast the applications of the game and to identify the most effective method of its delivery. These sessions included a traditional outreach presentation used as a control, and a group of UK students for a cohort comparison. Data were collected through a mixed-methods approach.
Overall the results of the study demonstrate how successful the game can be as an education tool, promoting knowledge improvement in players. The results also demonstrate how the role of the outreach instructor is important to encourage engagement and can result in higher levels of overall positive engagement exhibited by the students. The game was also successful at promoting knowledge gain and engagement with adult participants. The results also demonstrated promise for games in promoting longer-term knowledge retention and for improving awareness of existing outreach materials.
This research provides a foundation for the increased integration of emerging technologies within traditional education sessions. The work also shares some of the challenges and lessons learnt throughout the development and testing processes and provides recommendations for researchers looking to pursue a similar study or to adopt the use of serious games.