What Are Virtual Field Trips?
By: Dale Petersen, M.Ed.
I’m sure we all have strong memories of field trips we’ve taken during our school days. For various reasons, students don’t have the same opportunities available to them these days. The good news is that a reasonable, and sometimes superior, substitute experience is the virtual field trip. What is a virtual field trip, you ask?
Generally speaking, a virtual field trip is a digital and/or online exploration based on a specific theme. Virtual field trips are usually a pre-organized collection of images and information sourced online and presented as a computer-based learning experience. They are usually oriented toward a destination of some sort, either geographical or functional (e.g. a virtual factory tour). Most virtual field trips will usually fall into one of three categories.
The first category of virtual field trips is primarily based on existing web resources and visits to web sites. The content is not customized, for the most part, it is simply packaged in an organized fashion. This format lends itself to self-directed and self-guided learning experiences, particularly for students with web navigation experience.
The second category contains custom and original content and is created by a trip developer. These virtual field trips may include images, test, narration, and/or HTML pages. This category of trips is well suited to students and/or teachers who want to incorporate the internet, yet keep technology risks to a minimum. It is also preferable when all students should be accessing the same content.
The third and final category is when students have the opportunity to interact with on-site explorers or experts. This type of VFT can generate a great deal of enthusiasm on the part of the students, however the technology required for interaction can be complex and expensive. Time zone differences are another challenging aspect of this type of virtual field trip.
The field trips available here on our website fall into the second category. The content is original and uses images, narrations, and text to create a learning experience unique and customized to our audience. Students are not asked to navigate away from the site in order to go on the virtual field trip. It is particularly well suited to younger students, or those with less internet experience.
Foley, K. (2010). The big pocket guide to using & creating virtual field trips. Seattle, WA: Tramline.