“Flexible” field trips: Exploring best practices in emerging student-led technology-assisted field trips


Presentation Given At: 2015 Symposium on Scholarly Teaching & Learning in Post-Secondary Education


Presenters: Dr. Loch Brown, Dr. Arthur “Gill” Green, Dr. Derek Turner


Date Presented: November 13, 2015


Link: http://2015symposiumonscholarlyinquiryi.sched.org/event/31st/research-bites



Experiential learning gained through field trips has long been recognized as an effective way for students from a wide range of disciplines to gain hands-on experience in applying concepts and building new skills (Orion, 1993; Scare, 1997). Unfortunately, the resource intensive nature of field trips in conjunction with growing operational and budgetary constraints among higher education institutions have worked to severely limit the time most students get to spend in the field (Mcguinness and Simm, 2005).  Even where traditional field trips are available, many students find themselves unable to participate (e.g. disabled students, distant education students), which strongly suggests the need for more flexible field experiences (Atchison and Feig, 2011; Gilley et al., 2015). One solution to these problems has been to develop “flexible” field trips, be they real, virtual, or blended, that students can experience on their own time and schedule.  Such technology-assisted field trips are being adopted by institutions across North America, leading to the innovation of exciting new tools designed to overcome the limitations of traditional field trips (e.g. Stainfield et al., 2000). While this generates new and exciting opportunities for engaging students, the success of “flexible” field trips as measured by student learning hinges on informed design that applies sound pedagogical practice when leveraging new or existing technologies.  In moving this debate forward, this research offers a preliminary assessment of the effectiveness of flexible field trips run by the UBC Geography program and suggests best practice in the design and delivery of blended field trips.



Atchison, C.L., Feig, A.D., 2011. Theoretical perspectives on constructing experience through alternative field-based learning environments for students with mobility impairments. In: Feig, A.D. and Stokes, A. (eds.), Qualitative inquiry in geoscience education research. Geological Society of America Special Paper 474, 11-22.

Gilley, B., Atchison, C., Feig, A., Stokes, A., 2015. Impact of inclusive field trips. Nature Geoscience, 8, 579-580.

Mcguinness, M., Simm, D., 2005. Going Global? Long-haul fieldwork in undergraduate geography. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 29, 241-253.

Orion, N., 1993. A model for the development and implementation of field trips as an integral part of the science curriculum. School Science and Mathematics, 93, 325-331.

Scarce, R., 1997. Field trips as short-term experiential education. Teaching Sociology, 25, 219-226.

Stainfield, J., Fisher, P., Ford, B., Solem, M., 2000. International virtual field trips: a new direction? Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 24, 255-262.

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