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Aurora Institute

Virtual Field Trips and Blended Learning

Education Domain Blog

Author(s): Susan Patrick

Issue(s): Issues in Practice

Sometimes we look back on our childhood schooling experiences and reflect on a memorable or transformative field trip—say to the American Natural History Museum, Smithsonian, an art gallery or Washington, D.C.—where something in our minds clicked, and we knew we wanted to study to become an archaeologist, architect, astronaut or become president.

Unfortunately, our country’s cultural learning centers, high-profile museums and other educational landmarks may not be easily accessible for teachers wishing to take their students on such a field trip, possibly because they are too expensive or too far away. Virtual field trips can help schools overcome tight budgets and geographic obstacles while still providing quality learning opportunities for eager young minds—exemplary of how online and blended learning is transformational to the modern educational experience. 

USA Today’s Karly Moll wrote an excellent piece earlier this month on the evolution of school field trips and how virtual tours and online activities are helping schools provide memorable learning experiences that students might not otherwise have access to. Some museums are taking innovative steps to put academic resources and lesson plans online and to modify in-person visits to align with specific school curricula and testing standards.

These trips are excellent concrete examples of how blended learning tools offer teachers and students expanded access to valuable learning resources that, for a number of reasons, are not available in the traditional classroom or are becoming more difficult to offer. Yet these virtual opportunities still require the strong teacher-student relationships and quality teacher preparation that are foundational for successful blended learning environments.

If virtual field trips encourage imaginative learning and contribute to the development of young students and provide access to new learning resources beyond the textbook, it’s the next best thing to actually going to the museum or the White House. It is important that today’s budding presidents and archeologists have the opportunity explore their world, and a virtual visit adds more to their educational experience than no visit at all.