STEM Virtual Field Trips of the 21st Century: A Systematic Literature Review

Wednesday 4:30pm-5:45pm TSU - Humphries: 118
Poster Session Part of Wednesday


Christopher Krause, College of the Sequoias
Georgina Anderson, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Danielle Jackson, University of South Carolina-Columbia
Virtual field trips (VFTs) are multimedia presentations that bring experiences of distant places to learners via a computer, mimicking what learners might experience at a physical site. VFTs can allow students access to locations they would not otherwise be able to visit by offering freedom of exploration and reducing the impact of inclement weather and mobility challenges. We sought to evaluate the existing literature on the use of VFTs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines. Out of 2,006 Google Scholar search results for "virtual field trip" from the year 2000 to present, 43 articles met our inclusion criteria and were subsequently reviewed and classified using a modified Strength of Evidence Pyramid. Twelve articles were classified as Level 1 (Practitioner Wisdom/Expert Opinion). Most articles (n=24) were classified as Level 2 (Single Iteration of Qualitative/Quantitative Research), while seven articles were classified as Level 3 (Cohort Studies of Qualitative/Quantitative Research). No Level 4 (Synthesis) or Level 5 (Systematic Reviews) articles were found within our selected body of literature. Since 2000, we identified an approximate average of two peer-reviewed STEM VFT articles per year from a wide assortment of journals. Lack of a predominant journal for publishing VFT research as well as the infrequency of researchers publishing multiple articles about VFTs suggests a lack of research continuity in this area. The geosciences accounted for just over half of the included articles (n=22), followed by biology (n=15) and environmental science (n=6). VFTs were most commonly used as an instructional tool, to prepare students for, to enhance, or to replace in-person field trips. Most articles about VFTs relied on small sample sizes or inadequate assessment of learning outcomes. Overall, further research is necessary to fully understand the potential pedagogical value of virtual field trips.