Online Synchronous Seminars with Virtual Field Trips - Bringing Experiences Together From Across the World

Concurrent Session 9

Session Materials

Brief Abstract

Online education supports diverse student groups across the world. With online, synchronous seminars, geographic boundaries disappear and make 'virtual' field trips a reality.


Dr. Celine Santiago Bass has been the Science Department Chair in the School of General Education at Kaplan University since 2009. Prior to joining Kaplan University, Dr. Santiago Bass enjoyed a diversified career spanning over 25 years that has included teaching (both on-ground and online), scientific research, environmental consulting, and working in the corporate sector. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science with a minor in biology from Rutgers University, and a Master of Science in Environmental Science from New Jersey Institute of Technology. She also earned her PhD in Ecology and Evolution at Rutgers University where her research focused on estuarine ecology, specifically parasite communities of fish and the physiological and behavioral impacts they have on their hosts. This and other research has been published in several peer-reviewed scientific journals.

Extended Abstract

There's a tremendous amount of research available about the educational value and benefit of taking school-aged children out on field trips. One important finding researchers have reported is an improvement in critical thinking skills (Greene et. al 2014) as students make connections between classroom learning materials and real-world context. However, why limit these benefits to only school-aged children when they can also be an extremely effective teaching technique for adult learners as well?
In 2011, approximately 13.5% of students (2.78 million) enrolled at American colleges and universities were completing programs fully online (Bailey and Hussar, 2011) and according to the National Center for Education Statistics (2014), approximately 5.4 million students, or one in four, took at least one distance education course in the Fall of 2012. Online education programs are attractive to adult learners because of their flexibility and accessibility. These non-traditional students typically have full-time jobs, families, and other obligations and often do not have the time or the finances to go on ëfield trips'.
The Science Department at Kaplan University has recognized the educational value that virtual field trips provide. Not only are they critical for students majoring in a science field, but also those non-major students that may be taking a science course simply to meet their General Education requirements. The virtual trips provide a dynamic platform in which students can apply what may have initially presented itself as an abstract idea in science, to real-world application through the use of current events. As such, our instructors are encouraged to use this tool in their online synchronous seminars. Virtual field trips are also advantageous due to our varied student demographic- our seminars have students from across the country, and with Kaplan University being a military friendly school, this allows students to also participate and engage from across the world. These virtual resources allow students to have experiences that might otherwise be difficult to achieve in a real-time physical setting - be it to a wastewater treatment facility as part of a discussion regarding pharmaceuticals in the waste stream, or inside the human body's gastrointestinal tract as part of a discussion about probiotics.
Using an online science classroom, this presentation will review the different steps that help to make a virtual field trip successful - starting with the instructor's preparation for the trip, through the post-field trip review with students.

Bailey, T. and W. Hussar (March 2011). Projections of Education Statistics to 2019. National Center for Education Statistics, p. 8.
Haynie, D. (2014). New Government Data Sheds Light on Online Learners. U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved on November 23, 2015 from
Greene, J. P., Kisida, B., & Bowen, D. H. (2014). The educational value of field trips. Education Next, 14(1), 78-86.