UNIT 1-What are Virtual Field Trips?

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Back to Incorporating Virtual Field Trips

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Unit Objectives

  • The learner will define key terms that relate to virtual field trips.
  • The learner will compare elements of traditional vs virtual field trips.
  • The learner will be able to identify the different types of virtual field trips.

Unit Overview

Virtual field trips are another way for educators to use additional resources to enhance their curriculum and broaden student experiences in a topic. In order to determine if a virtual field trip is right for your curriculum you must not only know what a virtual field trip is, but what benefits it can provide. In this unit we define virtual field trips, and identify the benefits of virtual field trips over traditional field trips.


Take a moment to write down your answers to the following questions in the Unit 1 Discussion area. Enter your name and then your response. This is for you to reflect on your prior knowledge. Do not read any classmates answers to these questions. You will be collaborating with their answers later in the course.

1. Identify what educational benefits field trips provide for student learning?

2. Explain your understanding of a virtual field trip?

Key Terms

  • Provider- facility, group, or organization who creates, or organizes offered programs.
  • Connections- live video, either through live streaming or videoconferencing.
  • Conference- the holding of a meeting among people at remote locations by means of transmitted audio and video signals.
  • Synchronous- happening, existing at the same time.
  • Asynchronous- not simultaneous or concurrent in time

Mini Lecture

How do we define a virtual field trip?

A virtual field trip may be a series of links, pre-recorded video, or a live stream connection to a presenter or expert. The connection may take place through a computer, a webcam, or video conference equipment. The virtual field trip may be asynchronous (different time) or synchronous (same time). How a virtual field trip is defined may also depend on the type of medium used in order to broadcast the information. The platform may be ran by an educational organization, private sector, or company that houses many providers. There are also virtual field trips created by teachers for classroom use. We will not be focusing on this type of virtual field trip in this course, however you will see mention of it due to the benefits it has in relation to learning. To define a virtual field trip is difficult because there are various types, and forms of virtual field trips continue to change. The use of laptop computer or video conference equipment in some cases is being replaced by personal tablets, smartphones and even virtual reality glasses.

READ: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Virtual_field_trip

What are the benefits of a virtual field trip?

The use of field trips in the educational setting are not always viewed as beneficial. The field trip is an extension of the classroom curriculum, however it is also an additional expense and use of time. In order to appreciate the opportunites virtual field trips provide, we must first identify the educational value traditional field trips hold in enhancing experiences and learning.

Consider the following questions while reading about the virtual field trips. You may want to take notes or highlight information that relates to these questions.

1. What key benefits of virtual field trips convinces me that this is something worth trying?

2. How do traditional field trips compare to virtual field trips?

READ: The Educational Value of Field Trips

"A virtual field trip, if done correctly and in an educationally sound fashion can provide many of the identical cognitive and affective gains that an actual real-life field trip can provide." (Pearson)

Learning Activity

Read: The beginners guide to Interactive.

1. Help create the table below comparing traditional field trips and virtual field trips. (including commonalities)

2 Delete the empty cells and add examples from your readings. If your classmates have filled all the empty cells continue to add additional rows.

How many examples can you contribute?

Limit to travel distance No limit on distance
Insert example Insert example
Insert example Insert example
Insert example Insert example
Insert example Insert example
Insert example Insert example


Action speaks louder than words. This is why the best way for you to understand the different presentations of virtual field trips is to experience them first hand. Read and review each example presented below. Keep in mind that you may need to revisit one of these options for your final project.

Webcam Connection

The Monterey Bay aquarium has various live webcam connections students can view and teachers can link with animal and environmental lessons.

1.One example is to view the sea otters live on a webcam between 7a.m.-7 p.m. pacific. You can find out when they do live feeding times and connect at that time to hear a staff member giving live audiences specific information on sea otters.

1. Scroll below the screen and find the curriculum information offered that relates to Sea Otters.

2. Check out this example: Monterey Bay Aquarium

Streamed Connection

Some virtual field trips are recorded videos offered by a provider (museum, zoo, etc.) that simulates you visiting their place. The virtual component may be done as a pre-recorded video or streamed. If the connection is pre-recorded they may still have some component built in that allows for questions and answers to be asked or considered.

Example One Scholastic provides an interactive video virtual field trip through the Plimoth Plantation.

Check out the virtual tours here: Pilgrim Village

Example Two Discovery Education offers virtual field trips on topics for older students:

On the front lines of the Opioid Epidemic

Video Conference Connection

Synchronous connections offer the best interaction since they are real time. They offer more opportunity for question and answer, as well as hands-on experiments.

Since these connections are live it is hard to show actual examples of them taking place. Most providers will do a preview for educators and administration prior to booking. The following link is an example of a teacher preview at Longwood Gardens.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XAm4rqKVhak Longwood Gardens virtual field trip teacher preview]

Some of these programs are offered free, but due to the nature of connection there may be a field trip fee involved.


Review your pre-assessment answers and think about what new information you can add. In the Unit 1 discussion area (tab at the top of each unit)under Activity 1, write a short paragraph to an administrator as if they are not familiar with virtual field trips. Define a virtual field trip using at least 2 key terms, and explain one type of technology you are interested in using in your class. Complete the paragraph using two key benefits virtual field trips provide to learners that would warrant spending school funds.

Think Ahead

As you leave Unit 1 keep in mind educational benefits virtual field trips bring into the classroom.

Start to think about the advantages and disadvantages of using virtual field trips.


Foley, K. (2007). The Big Pocket Guide to Using & Creating Virtual Field Trips (3rd ed.). Tramline. [1]. ISBN 0-9716154-0-3.

Greene, J. P., Kasida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2014, winter). The educational value of field trips. Education next, 78-86.


  • How Does a Virtual Field Trip Compare to the Real Thing?. (2006). Online Classroom, 2.