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Field Education Goes Virtual

Along with the rest of the world, Stanford EARTH Field Education has moved entirely online, posing particular challenges for field trips.


Online learning has been particularly challenging for instruction that has traditionally been in the field. The community has responded by creating a wide array of virtual field resources using a variety of approaches, mostly focusing on self-guided, asynchronous experiences.  While many of these resources are fantastic, they may not serve the requirements of instructors that want to teach synchronous virtual field trips, using their own knowledge and content. This can be useful when an instructor has been leading in-person field trips to particular locations for years, and simply wants the closest possible online equivalent to that experience. 

Stanford EARTH Field Education pivoted to creating Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) intended to provide that experience. They provide a framework for all kinds of instructional trips, just as the real outdoors would. There are some examples below of VFTs that are designed for specific experiences, with instructional content included, or even as self-guided tours. But most of these are intended as a blank canvas for teaching any field related content that an instructor wants, whether that is geology, ecology, botany, or any other field science. The trips can also be used for asynchronous student exercises, making observations, reading maps, or even creating geologic sketch maps.

There are a growing number of resources that are being created for more self-guided geology and ecology field trips. This collection is intended to fill the gap in virtual field content that can be used to assist in synchronous online learning, to walk students through the field nearly as they would in an in-person field trip.

Although the virtual resources were jump-started to address the current needs for online learning, these resources will also be useful for a time when we can return to in-person field trips. Not only can they continue to provide an alternative for situations in which in-person field trips are not possible, they can also be used to augment field experiences. They prepare students, making trips more efficient, safe, and effective.

We also hope they can provide students a chance to become familiar with the environment, trails, and camping environments. Giving them the ability to make more informed decisions about preparation and participation. Ideally, allowing students who would otherwise feel out of place or uncomfortable to be more comfortable and more likely to participate.

To see some of the VFTs that the we are creating, check out the Virtual Field Trips page.


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