We often think about virtual field trips as an innovative way for traditional classrooms to explore places and experiences that they may not be able to get to physically. But virtual field trips can also be a game changer for virtual classrooms.

K12 Inc. is accustomed to innovating education through the use of technology. Since the turn of the 21st century, the company has provided online schooling and curriculum for kindergarten through twelfth grade.

More recently, K12 Inc. educators have begun to explore the possibilities of virtual field trips, a great opportunity for their student population. Virtual field trips allow students to learn about everything from science to the arts, all without leaving home. For K12 students, virtual trips allow online students to connect with both the curriculum they’re learning and with their fellow classmates, which provides excellent socialization opportunities.

In 2015, Wyoming Virtual Academy (WYVA) music teacher and high school advisor Jennifer Schultze brought her class to the University of Wyoming to learn about the instruments in the Gamelan orchestra. With the help of ClassConnect, Schultze helped students from 15 states and several different countries to learn virtually, in addition to the 15 students who attended the trip in person.

23f97d96-6843-4cc7-b2b2-51e8885c6ab5_VFTAnother school utilizing virtual field trips is Idaho Virtual Academy (IDVA). In the 2015-2016 school year, teachers explored the opportunities in making hybrid field trips with the option for students to attend in-person or virtually.

In science teacher Michelle Boggs’ Earth and Environmental Science class, IDVA students were able to visit the Idaho Museum of Mining and Geology in Boise in order to learn from geology expert Coyote Short. Short guided the students through the nearby foothills in order to view Lake Idaho. While many students attended in person, many others were able to attend virtually using Periscope. Boggs was able to stream the field trip live so students from all over the state could log in and learn about the rocks and gems housed in the museum. Periscope stores the videos for up to 24 hours and allows the user to create a YouTube link to save the video.

1b4592da-84eb-4d6d-9f00-7ec692015246_20151016_120336IDVA social studies teacher Carolyn Fabis is a strong believer that “the world is the classroom,” and students in her class also had the opportunity to virtually attend a field trip this past fall. Fabis planned a trip to the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial in Boise, and was able to offer the option of virtual attendance through Periscope to students who could not make the trip. Students in her class live all over the state and it isn’t always feasible for them to travel great distances to attend an in-person field trip. With a tool like Periscope, even when attending virtually, students can feel present, ask questions and get live answers.

And while there are plenty of videos a teacher could use to enhance students’ learning, Fabis believes there is an added validity to the experience when students know their teacher and classmates are present, they can interact with the tour guide and when the video being created is original content and specifically created for their class. Another perk? By asking permission of the tour guide to take video and being able to record the trip, students are afforded the added value of being able to access the video and recall the information later.

Fabis knows there are great possibilities with virtual field trips. She has plans to explore other apps that can refine and streamline the process in the upcoming school year.

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