Pros & Cons of Virtual Field Trips

Virtual field trips let students explore at their own pace.
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Most school districts are feeling the effects of state and federal budget cuts. With less money for activities and events, more teachers are turning to technology for innovative solutions. Virtual field trips, which use a combination of images, video and text about a particular time or place to present information to students via the Internet, are becoming a popular alternative to traditional field trips. Many students and teachers say the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.

1 Range of Experiences

Virtual field trips allow students to explore places that they might not have been able to visit otherwise. Elementary school students especially benefit from virtual field trips since their school trips are often limited by distance and time constraints. Students of all ages can experience traveling to far-off locations -- from Antarctica to outer space -- through a virtual trip. Virtual field trips also allow teachers to expose students to places not common in their geographic region.

2 Broad Educational Objectives

The use of the Internet to provide virtual field trips increases the amount of information students receive during the experience. According to Jim Bradley, director of communications at Colonial Williamsburg, on-site field trips commonly have a specific educational objective, determined by the field trip coordinator of the visiting school. Virtual field trips, on the other hand, cover a wider range of topics because they aim to meet learning standards in different states. Older students also prefer the educational freedom that comes with going on self-directed virtual field trips. Students can view and study information on different places on their own time instead of being ushered through by a tour guide.

3 Safety

In traditional field trips, student safety is always a concern. Even with teachers soliciting parent chaperones and using methods like the buddy system, there's always a chance that an incident where a student gets lost or hurt could occur. Virtual field trips eliminate the problem of worrying about student safety almost completely. While the issue of online safety could arise during a virtual trip, teachers and school districts manage this concern through proper planning and Internet filters.

4 Student Engagement

Though virtual field trips provide students with a range of educational experiences, they are limited in the modes they provide these experiences through. Virtual field trips can only engage students' senses of sight and hearing. Traditional field trips allow students to actively participate in their learning experience by providing opportunities for them to see, hear, smell and sometimes touch or taste the things around them.

Based in Gainesville, Carissa Lawrence is an experienced teacher who has been writing education related articles since 2013. Lawrence holds a master's degree in early childhood education from the University of Florida.