Virtual Field Projects

A curriculum that has historically relied heavily upon real-world experiential learning had to quickly revise lesion plans and practices to accommodate current COVID conditions.  I have personally been involved in putting together virtual field trips to accommodate learning objectives while adhering to safety protocol both as a TA and hosting as a graduate student as a part of a class I am attending.  During this process, I have learned that video editing is not an intuitively obvious art. Video file size and video editing apps create many challenges of their own and, in my case, required upgrading my computer capacity. Also, issues of sound quality and video quality often involve expensive equipment, practice, and training.  These barriers can be cost-prohibitive, time prohibitive in learning the necessary technology, and are genuinely an overall art form.  There are other access barriers in that many hosts may not allow access to allow for a virtual tour due to safety or privacy concerns.   These virtual tours ideally involve a host who is willing to participate in a virtual tour asynchronously with the students, which can be somewhat challenging to accommodate for the schedule class slot times.

As I spent hours putting together various field trip clips for students to attend asynchronously, my son would tease, “you just took everything fun from a field trip and turned it into WORK for everyone else.” However, I have to disagree with my son’s assessment and acknowledge that these virtual experiences provide a safe forum for students to experience environments that may not otherwise be accessible.  For this reason, I decided to focus on virtual field trips for this blog post.

Oregon State University’s ( article discusses the difficulty of creating a virtual learning environment for STEM learning.  Over the summer, 50 field stations in 6 different countries took on a “virtual field project.”


1. Create ecosystem exploration videos to teach students to find and observe evidence of key ecological concepts.

  1. Host live-streaming cross-site events with researchers to discuss the process of field research with students.


  1. Share existing virtual materials and events with faculty at universities across the U.S. produced by a variety of organizations. A virtual field portal will act as a signpost, catalog, and calendar for faculty, students and community.


  1. Evaluate the efficacy of virtual field materials to set the stage for further cross-site virtual field learning initiatives”



This article states that these virtual field projects will continue after the COVID pandemic. It is a way to increase the diversity of environments studied worldwide while concurrently providing broader access to students at large in a way that enhances collaborative learning and research.

On a personal level, I agree with this assessment. As a graduate student in a class that required all students to go out and film a virtual field trip to share with the course, I could view environments that I otherwise would not have traveled to visit.  It was interesting to see how various areas handled similar issues centered around class themes.  I would say that this provided all students an enhanced learning environment that allowed for exciting collaboration in idea-sharing after each virtual field trip.


Online article source:

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