EGU General Assembly 2023
© Author(s) 2023. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Researching the use of virtual Field trips as a flexible multipurpose teaching resource

Jonathan Davidson1, Ben Kennedy1, Alex Watson1, Kamen Engel1, Alison Jolley2, Tim Stahl1, Alex Nichols1, and Erik Brogt1
Jonathan Davidson et al.
  • 1University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand (
  • 2University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Virtual field trips (VFTs) are a means to give learners a genuine experience and feeling of what it
would be like to participate in in-person fieldtrips but can also act as a teaching resource to meet other
learning outcomes that are not necessarily related to fieldwork. These virtual experiences can provide
greater accessibility for people that cannot participate in in-person field trips for reasons such as
logistics, cost, or physical ability. Using internet browsers, we have been able to create online content
that is interactive with mapping activities, communication exercises, animations, 360° videos, virtual
rocks, detailed thin sections of rocks, and questions with automated feedback. These VFTs have been
used as more than just a replica of an in-person field trip, they can be used in a variety of contexts. As
an example, our research group has used them as: 1) flexible knowledge resources to replace lectures
and supplement hands-on laboratory classes and tutorials; 2) fieldwork preparation resources that
teach content and allow students to explore outcrops they will visit in person; and 3) a self-guided
field trip when group field trips are impractical or impossible (e.g., student illness).
We have found that VFTs allow educators to take students to places they would otherwise not be able
to go, to familiarize students with field skills and content before going into the field to maximize
learning on in-person field trips. Our research results from student interviews, focus groups and pre-
post measures of learning show that students enjoy and engage well with the digital content, although
we are still far from an immersive in-person field experience. Looking to the future, we are continuing
to develop new ways for students to genuinely explore and discover on a VFT, making use of mixed
reality, which has the potential to provide students with an even more immersive experience. Such
interactive VFTs can be suitable replacements for lecture content in a flipped classroom or as
preparatory exercises for in-person fieldtrips, but they should only replace in-person fieldtrips after
careful consideration.

How to cite: Davidson, J., Kennedy, B., Watson, A., Engel, K., Jolley, A., Stahl, T., Nichols, A., and Brogt, E.: Researching the use of virtual Field trips as a flexible multipurpose teaching resource, EGU General Assembly 2023, Vienna, Austria, 24–28 Apr 2023, EGU23-1106,, 2023.