VEPP: Working with the VEPP website in an online M.Ed. course

Eliza Richardson, Penn State University
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Students explore the VEPP website and complete a two-part problem set in which they work through the ideas presented in an EOS paper regarding eruptions at Kilauea and they try to find a deflation-inflation event using the VALVE3 software.

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Learning Goals

The content goals for this activity are as follows.

Students will:

  • know that volcanoes are monitored with a variety of instruments
  • describe what happens to a volcanic vent in time and space during a deflation-inflation event

The higher order thinking skills goals for this activity are as follows.

Students will:

  • read a report detailing recent eruptive activity at Kilauea volcano.
  • predict hypothetical instrument responses to certain volcanic activities
  • calculate the rate of magma movement based on measured seismicity
  • use the real-time volcano monitoring tools made available through the VEPP Web site to discover and describe an inflation-deflation event measured at Pu'u O'o.

Other skills goals for this activity include interacting with real-time data in a web-based environment.

Context for Use

This activity was designed for M.Ed. students (usually mid-career high school teachers) in a small class (typically 10 or fewer). The class in which I teach this activity is a fully online course about solid earth geophysics and this activity is situated within a week-long unit devoted to volcanic eruptions. This unit appears about three-quarters of the way through my class, but that placement is not critical to its success.

I believe this activity could be used successfully either in an online or a face-to-face course and it could easily be adapted at the undergraduate level. Since it is a problem set and should be graded by hand, its use is probably restricted to smaller courses or courses in which there is a TA to assist with grading. Students need to have some facility reading a scientific paper, making simple calculations from time-series data, and navigating a web-based environment. Students need internet access to complete the portion of this activity that involves the VEPP website and the VALVE3 software interface.

Description and Teaching Materials

The link below goes directly to the the page in my online course in which I describe the VEPP website and give students the necessary background to complete this activity.
EARTH 520 VEPP website explanation

The link below goes directly to the page in my online course in which I actually assign the activity itself. (This second page directly follows the above page in my course.)
EARTH 520 VEPP exercise assignment

The file below is the EOS article the students read for part 1 of the activity.
New Episodes of Volcanism at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii (Acrobat (PDF) 607kB Oct21 10)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Accessing the VEPP Web site ( requires a password, which can be obtained by sending an email with your name, affiliation, and intended use of the site to mpoland "at"

The activity is self contained within the web pages I have designed. If adapting for a face-to-face course, background information about volcanic eruptions and the geology of Hawaii should be covered first. If using in an online course, you may want to have students read through the content presented in my entire week-long eruptions lesson to put the activity into context. Here is a direct link to page 1 of the lesson (the activity description and assignment are on pages 8 and 9 of this lesson): EARTH 520 volcanic eruptions lesson


The deliverable for this activity is a completed problem set which I grade. At the end of the week-long lesson the students also participate in a Teaching/Learning Discussion via an asynchronous discussion board. The goal is for them to discuss ways in which course material might be repurposed and adapted for their own classrooms. This discussion gives me another chance to assess whether they learned the content as written in my learning objectives.

References and Resources

The full citation for the EOS paper I have the students read in this activity is: Poland, M., A. Miklius, T. Orr, J. Sutton, C. Thornber, and D. Wilson, 2008. New Episodes of Volcanism at Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, Eos 89, 37-38.

Working with the VEPP website in an online M.Ed. course --Discussion  

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