It’s a well-known assumption of college life: once you enroll in college courses, the number of classroom field trips you go on are severely diminished. Gone are the days of visiting bread factories, going to the movies, seeing plays, or touring local historical landmarks (all of which I did in grade school). Unless you enroll in a study abroad program, opportunities for exploring other cities, agencies, museums, or businesses are rare. The opportunities are even fewer for students enrolled in online courses.
But, not for some students enrolled at the University at Buffalo. Every semester, Deborah Raines, a professor in the School of Nursing, takes her students to the National Institutes of Health, the National Patient Safety Foundation, Museum of Nursing History, the AAHN gravesites of prominent nurses, other professional nursing organizations, and the movies. And, all of these trips have been provided virtually.
Raines said that she was inspired by Dr. Seuss’s “Oh the Places You’ll Go!” to engage her students in relevant concepts that were outside the classroom.
Her students work with experts at each organization to ask questions about the mission of the agency and the work that they do. She also arms them with “tour guide” activities as part of the trip – what to see, points of interest, interesting facts, and videos. She said, “I have had students that have actually talked to leaders in the field of nursing that they then take back to their classes as a result of these virtual field trips.”
Raines said that although each student goes to the same place, they find what is of most interest to them – much like a trip to the museum. Students share their experiences with each other following each trip, whether through a blog post, virtual postcards, videos, and scrapbooks and feedback is very positive.
This isn’t the only program that has “trips” like these established. Raines has worked with other faculty members to design other similar trips in the field of anthropology and she says “Online field trips can be created for any other field of study.”
Virtual field trips are just one way that faculty are connecting students with free, open, available course material.
This week is Open Education Week. From March 9 – 13, organizations around the world are celebrating the work done to educate people on the tools, resources, and practices that reduce barriers and increase access to education worldwide. Open SUNY Affordable Learning Solutions is one of those initiatives.
As a service for faculty, librarians, and other instructional staff, Open SUNY is working to locate free or reduced priced instructional materials and content, including textbooks, MOOCS, journal articles, and other content repositories.
The impact of these programs is astounding:
- Between 2011-2013, 698 Tompkins Cortland Community College students saved an estimated $69,800 on textbooks, 26.7% more of those students received passing grades, and 15% fewer students withdrew after an open textbook and other OERs were adopted into a Psychology course.
- Since Spring 2014, Open SUNY MOOCs have had 145,679 enrollments.
- Open SUNY Textbooks now has eight textbooks in publication, with more in development.
To learn more about virtual field trips, you can visit the Open SUNY Center for Online Teaching Excellence Community.