Exploring Authentic Assessment through Virtual Field Trips in Higher Education

Concurrent Session 4

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Learn to incorporate virtual experiences into activities and assignments to help students master course objectives through authentic assessment. We will discuss pedagogically sound implementations of virtual field trips and explore examples. Participants will leave with the resources necessary to design their own virtual field trip activities.   



Shannon was surprised by a passion for undergraduate education as a Teaching Assistant at Syracuse University. Inspired by this new interest, she participated in both the Future Professoriate Project and the Preparing Future Faculty program, and became a Teaching Fellow to help train and mentor new Teaching Assistants at the university. After earning her MA, PhD, and Certificate in University Teaching from Syracuse University, she entered private industry as a consultant for cultural resource compliance, then transitioned to a role as a lead program manager and contact for cultural resource concerns for a federal agency. With few opportunities for instruction or engagement with teaching and learning, she transitioned to instructional design at the University of Florida Information Technology's Center for Instructional Technology and Training, where she draws on her diverse educational and career experiences in collaborations with faculty, administrators, and colleagues.
Allyson Haskell is an instructional designer at the Center for Instructional Technology & Training at the University of Florida and has assisted with design, development, and implementation of courses in a variety of subject areas. She also has experience in project management and taught high school math before beginning her career at the University of Florida.

Extended Abstract

Virtual field trips present a variety of content for student learning in online environments. Virtual field trips tend to be highly visual, and offer varying levels of interactivity. Many resources for virtual field trips already exist online, can easily be incorporated into existing course content and assignments, and offer diverse options for increasing student engagement and authentic assessment. Virtual field trips provide opportunities for students to interact with materials, locations, and environments that would otherwise be too difficult, costly, or remote to access.

Generally, virtual field trips fall into one of two categories: simulated visits and video tours. Video tours are usually more directed and less interactive, presenting audiovisual content in a linear format. Simulated visits allow students to navigate through a virtual environment and are built with varying levels of interactivity: in some, only images are displayed, while in others, students can navigate an immersive environment and select items or images for detailed views and additional information. Virtual field trips can be incorporated in any course where students do not have access to the location of interest, including distance learning courses. Students can use simulated visits to explore natural environments and cultural landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef, the Colorado River’s course through the Grand Canyon, the Amazon Basin, the Great Wall of China, and the British Museum.

In this discovery session, we will focus on using simulated visits for authentic assessment. We will share the advantages of and best practices for incorporating virtual field trips into course content, assignments, and activities. Participants will explore an example virtual field trip to one or more remote locations from their computers or mobile devices. Participants will have the option to share their experiences via social media.

Attendees will leave with a variety of resources they can use to design their own virtual field trip assignments, including links to simulated visits and example assignments that model authentic assessment with the goal of increasing student engagement.