Thanks everyone for the lively discussion and the insights. For those of you who are going to be at GSA it would be great to meet and continue this discussion.
A little bit of background on my original questions. I'm in the last stages of a dissertation on the impact of virtual field environment design and use on teacher education. I also spend the bulk of my teaching time working with non-majors. So I have a strong interest in how VFEs can be used to support field education, how their design reflects authentic fieldwork, and how they can be used to give students a "taste" of fieldwork when getting into the field isn't possible.
Earth Science Instructor
Portland Community College