Planning Virtual Field Trips

Vimy Memorial. Photo by Guy Dugas, CC0

Classroom time constraints are a barrier to taking adult learners on field trips. Whether the class takes place as a night course or a part of the daytime curriculum, the usual three-hour class prohibits taking students off campus. The answer is to take students on a virtual field trip.

Many of the popular virtual field trip (search Google for suggestions) includes museum or historical sites. Finding an appropriate field trip is often the first hurdle an educator must overcome. However, with a bit of creativity, a trip to a museum or historical site will provide a plethora of ideas.

For example, as a media teacher, several of my courses included classes on how to write a media release. I could easily take the students to the virtual tour of the Battle of Vimy Ridge and have them identify news stories and news releases based on the information found.

Finding a site is often the easiest part of a virtual field trip. As mentioned above, the learners must have something to do that is connected with subject. Adult learners are easily engaged if they are provided some guidance. Unlike younger students who need to be monitored, adults want to use their previous experiences and blend them into the learning experience.

It is important for adult to be given direction, but also the ability to personalize the learning experience. In the example of Vimy Ridge, a learner may want to include a personal family story in the assignment.

For other learners who know nothing of Canadian history, the assignment must help the learner engage with the material, or it will become little more than a sightseeing trip.

The assignment may have many elements to it, such as information collection points, reflection on how this topic relates to the class subject, or assign groups to become subject matter experts and then report back to the class.

Assignments focus the learners on specific, important areas or topic covered in the field trip. Adult learners are always asking, “What’s the point?” and “What’s in it for me?” They must know this ahead of time for the trip to be a success.

From the curriculum design perspective, testing is the most important part of lesson. The last thing the instructor needs to encounter are technical issues that can quickly bring the class to a standstill and disengage learners. Points to think about are:

  • Should a computer lab be booked or can all students bring in a laptop?
  • Do all students have a login and have they tested it before the virtual field trip class?
  • Do students need headsets for the audio portion?
  • Is the virtual field trip accessible to Apple and PC users?
  • Does the virtual field trip work flawlessly on at least two of the three: Safari, Explorer, Firefox?
  •  Is the tour at the same intellectual level as the learners?

Using virtual field trips often means that the teacher has to be as creative as the learners, but the results are worth it. The time and effort put into to preparing a virtual field trip can help create a memorable learning experience for the students – and that is what teaching and learning are all about.

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