Many introductory students face challenges adjusting to new geographic, social, and cultural contexts involved in their course of study, yet the extent of a student’s integration and “sense of place” in an academic environment is associated with their performance and persistence toward related goals. This case study describes a place-based blended learning activity we created in ArcGIS StoryMaps ( to acclimatize students to the novel environment of an introductory animal sciences course during the first week of the semester. Using an embedded mixed-method design, this activity combines two complementary sources of data: 1) a qualitative personal account of activity design and implementation during the fall 2020 and fall 2021 semesters, and 2) an embedded quantitative survey of student learning outcomes and perceptions of the activity in the fall 2021 semester. Qualitative results illustrated instructional design choices related to the course context and instructional constraints and illuminated potential modifications to the activity’s collaborative and assessment elements. Quantitative results on a 5-pt. anchored scale suggested that the activity was very effective at orienting students to the course’s geographic context (M = 4.0, SD = 0.9), moderately effective at facilitating social bonding (M = 3.5, SD = 1.1), and moderately effective at increasing historical-cultural awareness related to the department (M = 3.2, SD = 1.3). Our results indicated that blended, place-based learning served as an effective onboarding activity in the context of our course.

Keywords: ArcGIS, StoryMap, place-based, blended learning, campus tour, introductory