Learning outcomes, learning support and cohort cohesion on a virtual field trip: an analysis of student and staff perceptions

Clare E. Bond* (Corresponding Author), Jessica H. Pugsley, L. Kedar, S. R. Ledingham, M. Z. Skupinska, T. K. Gluzinski, M. L. Boath

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


The rise of the virtual field trip was unprecedent in 2020 and 2021 due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual field trips aim to replicate the learning outcomes and experiences of actual field trips, by providing a digital alternative to in-field courses. They provide valuable opportunities for those unable to visit the field and alternative learning experiences for those that can. However, understanding their efficacy in term of learning outcomes, the effectiveness of learning support offered, and cohort cohesion generally remains untested. Here we show how negative aspects of a virtual field trip both pre- and post-course are countered by positive outcomes in terms of breadth of learning outcomes and experience. As part of our analysis, we tested methods to mitigate barriers to inclusion and learning on a virtual field trip including internet connectivity and hardware access, use of printed workbooks, and limitations to interaction, support and cohort cohesion. Our results show that although negative perceptions, as evidenced through questionnaire responses, are dominant, with 71 %–88 % of respondents commenting on these aspects across both student and staff cohorts pre- and post-course; positive aspects of virtual field trips (43 %–57 %) also feature highly. Students show a positive shift in their perception of online teaching and learning over the course with positive comments moving from 19 % pre-course to 71 % post-course, whereas positive comments by staff are low pre- and post-course at 14 %. Printed workbooks, staff: student ratios and interaction are received positively. Overall, we find that negative perceptions of virtual field trips pre- and post-course exist, but that both students and staff identify positive elements including breadth of learning outcomes, particularly regarding data synthesis and analysis. We suggest ways to learn from these findings to design virtual field trips that deliver effectively in blended learning environments for the benefit of all.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307–323
Number of pages17
JournalGeoscience Communication
Issue number4
Early online date6 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2022

Bibliographical note

We acknowledge the input of the students and staff who took part in the virtual field trip and contributed to the research by completing the surveys. The virtual field trip academic staff were Clare Bond, Rob Butler, Malcolm Hole, Colin North, Adrian Hartley, and Ian Alsop, who were involved in discussions on learning outcomes, course design, and delivery modes. The non-author PhD student demonstrators were Tom Theurer, Bartosz Kurjanski, and Sophie Berhendsen, who provided feedback on small group sessions.


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