Virtual Fieldtrip

Virtual excursions, virtual field trips, and virtual fieldwork are trendy pedagogical approaches, but their meaning is not clearly defined. Virtual field trips have been proposed as an alternative or complement to field activities, and as a key tool to bring the “outside” into the classroom. Virtual field trips vary greatly in their scope of student participation. For example, videos and podcasts are commonly used in classroom settings, but they are primarily observational, with low requirements for student participation. Understand better a virual field trip exeperience. 

According to Stainfield et al. (2000), a virtual field trip has three main characteristics:

  • Allowing observations to be made without being on the actual site or having a lecturer at hand to explain,
  • Allowing interaction with the virtual environment through participation, exploration, analysis, and learning and testing of skills both old and new,
  • And allowing interaction at its best.

Virtual tools also exist to increase student participation. Learning through virtual excursions has two main components: student autonomy and interactivity.


We can make a difference between different type of virtual field trip (Leininger-Frézal and Sprenger, 2022).

 A virtual visit 

A guided virtual field trip

Guided VFT

In contrast, a guided virtual field trip, such as the one created in partnership with the Virt’Ex project at the University of Hamburg and the University of Paris City, allows students to walk through the eco-neighborhood of Bretigny sur orge, a district in the suburbs of Paris. Students can follow an itinerary or explore freely in the space through an interactive map, move around in 360-degree panoramas, or view photos. The tasks dedicated to students are not limited to observation.

An opened virtual field trip 

Athens (Credits : Photo by David Tip on Unsplash)

Finally, an open virtual field trip is exemplified by the “Do-it-yourself on the field” project, which took place during the spring 2020 confinement in France with third-year undergraduate students. The project aimed to get the students out of their homes and help them develop a new perspective on a place close to home. It relied on free and online tools such as Qgis and umap to allow all students to participate in one-hour outings within a one-kilometer radius.

Discover the methodology of Athen’s Field Trip and its production.