A published study reported that 89.5% of the surveyed geoscientists selected that fieldwork was an essential requirement in undergraduate geology programs (Petcovic et al., 2014). The main purpose of field trips in geology is to transfer classroom material to a practical lab setting, which requires students to build scientific problem-solving skills in addition to observation and descriptive skills. However, completing and participating in fieldwork can often become an obstacle due to accessibility issues, physical or mental health constraints, and financial and time restrictions. Higher education programs must create fieldwork activities that “do not rely on the assumption of able-bodiedness among students”, are widely accessible, and remove some of the additional barriers to participation (Chiarella & Vurro, 2020; Hall et al., 2002).
Research has shown that virtual field trips cannot fully replace the benefits and skills learned through traditional field work, they are be a valuable learning tool that can significantly reduce the inaccessibility of field work – physically, financially, mentally, and geographically.
The VirtualGEO Team has worked to digitize and provide free access to several New Jersey, national, and international field locations. Be sure to browse the collection of materials from all the project sites, and check back regularly for new updates.