Visualisation constructs the artificial environment, whether it is past, present, or future in a way that it feels like real. This enables creation of artificial world that can be manipulated unlike the real-world. This study utilises visualisation methods in geographical context to facilitate a spatial understanding of things, concepts, conditions, processes or events in the human world for the planning students. Visualisation of different scenarios are important across two main areas of planning. Firstly, visualisation techniques are used in generating data to understand current landscape changes and to generate future urban development options for a region or suburb (overall impression of development (density, scale, height and bulk of structures). Secondly, planners may use geo-visualisation tools and immersive experiences to illustrate the potential effects of a proposed development on the surrounding area. The use of visualisation media in teaching has dramatically transformed over last decade, and these developments are providing opportunities to create various digital learning resources. This study presents various methods of visualising urban planning scenarios across diverse media and the research design of measuring the effects of visualisation methods on student learning. The resources prepared for this study included various ways of geographic representations to create products that can be visualised in generic media such as fly-throughs in the form of movies, specialised media such as geographical information systems (GIS) tools, and advanced visualisation media such as large format displays (Immerse Lab) and 3d immersive visualisation (CAVE2). The themes used for this study were observing changes over several decades, visualisation of future and alternate scenarios. The learning resources were created with spatial databases comprising of archived historical aerialphotographs (from 1960s onwards), Landsat image archive, GoogleEarth and Nearmap images. The products were created in the form of animations, interactive PDFs, and image layers that can be interacted within GoogleEarth. Various 3d geographic representations were used in visualisations, and a 3d view of a study area was created for the study area using GIS tools (ArcGIS software). Subsequently, the 3d views were navigated and recorded as movies. Moreover, it was possible to immerse users in the 3d view with the use of CAVE2 facility. Students have provided feedback showing how use of visualisation techniques have improved their understanding of urban issues across a number of courses. But there are implications to be considered. Visualisation resources vary because projects differ from year to year with different communities and professional planners involved each year. A different virtual reality needs to be generated for each planning project, requiring more resources. There is a debate about the amount of technical knowledge that is needed in the planning program to use visualisation resources effectively in practice – an extension of the debate “Is Planning a Science or an Art?”. Some students prefer a more organic approach to design and are intimidated by the technology. A typical planning project lasts about 12 weeks so there are tensions between getting technical planning details right and developing any visualisation tools. However, it is obvious that planning educators need to resolve these tensions as the use of visualisation media increases across all areas of planning.
2016 Learning & Teaching Week: 2020 Teaching Visions. 2020 - What's Next?, Sunshine Coast, Australia 31 October - 4 November 2016