By Alexander Leo Phillips
By the time of publication I will be nearing the end of assisting upon a human geography undergraduate field trip. Not a great deal has changed since I took the trip as a (slightly less) naive undergraduate back in 2006; which has led me to wonder about what tools we now have available to enhance the experience?
Some may cynically claim that their main justification is to act as a recruiting tool (and many would say their right); after all what kind of enthusiastic A-level student wouldn’t be tempted by a trip to New York or New Zealand. Details of such trips are often included as main open day themes as a result. On the other hand they provide students with an important opportunity to employ various practical research techniques and link ‘textbook’ examples to the ‘real world’; something which can be easily lost in the lecture hall.
With the ever increasing virtual possibilities made available to us through various technological achievements, its likely that Virtual Field Trips (VFTs) will play a greater role in university curricula in future years. Stainfield et al explored the value of such trips back in 2000 and given the increasing economic stress placed upon students and universities, along with the ever improving technological capabilities, its likely that supporting VFTs will become increasing common place. Few would suggest that they will ever replace the actual trips, but it would be interesting to explore their potential to enhance what we currently have and how things have changed since the 2000 paper.
Stainfield, J. Fisher, P. Ford, B. Solem, M. 2000. ‘International Virtual Field Trips: A New Direction?’, Journal of Geography in Higher Education. Vol 24 (2). pp. 255-262.