Why digital support is of added value for field excursions

Research shows that the use of digital support such as an app clearly adds value to field excursions: it increases student participation. In this article we explain how this happens.

Field excursions are the perfect moment to let students work independently with the course material. All elements for this are present during an excursion. However, this often proves difficult. You are dealing with large groups, not so motivated students, all ‘small arrangements’ such as transport, or calamities. In addition, teachers often find it difficult to make an enjoyable excursion. And we all know it’s not easy to keep a large group of students interested, especially if you want to transfer a lot of knowledge during an important moment such as a field excursion.

Fortunately, nowadays there is a lot of software that can support you in this.

Research project Go Outside!

The Faculty of Geosciences of Utrecht University investigated in 2019 in the project Go Outside! (‘Naar Buiten!’) how digital teaching materials and mobile devices contribute to improving field education. On the platform EduSources van SURF the results of this research are shared.

The research shows that digital teaching material has added value for field excursions. A total of six topics are mentioned in which digital facilitation of excursions offers added value:

  1. The use of digital material increases students’ autonomy;
  2. The participation during the field excursion improves;
  3. The material helps to address higher order cognitive skills;
  4. Teachers can more easily collect and use data;
  5. Students receive feedback more easily or more quickly;
  6. Sharing excursion material becomes easier.

Below we give a brief explanation of the research per topic.

The use of digital material increases student autonomy

During field excursions, students are often used to following the excursion leader or teacher. An app or another form of digital support can help students to independently find their way to excursion points, to receive information there via the app.

At the same time, the software takes over many practical tasks from a teacher. Think of route directions, leading groups, helping with facilities, and so on. We wrote about this in an earlier blog about an app as a guide.

The study also mentions a disadvantage: it is less easy for students to ask a question to the teacher. The positive side of this is that students are encouraged to first look for an answer themselves, or to ask questions to their fellow students.

Participation during the field excursions improves with an app

As a teacher you always have to deal with students who are less involved. They ask fewer questions and take a passive role in their group. This can be reinforced during a teacher-led excursion because enthusiastic, involved students demand more attention from the teacher. In practice, therefore, it is also easy to adopt a passive attitude.

The research mentions that an excursion app can offer challenging and interactive teaching methods, thereby increasing participation. For example, in Peek we invite students to discuss answers within the group, after which they submit an answer. By attaching a time limit to this (“formulate an answer within five minutes”) you also add some tension to the field excursion.

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A group on the road with the Peek excursion app

A field trip app helps to engage higher order cognitive skills

New technology and digital material can also be used to allow students to work with the material more independently. This appeals to a higher cognitive skill. In a previous blog we wrote about the possibilities Peek offers for this.

Teachers can collect and use data more easily in field excursions

Digital support, such as a field excursion app on location, makes it easy to collect data in a uniform and structured way. Moreover, as a teacher you do not receive that data on a pile of paper that still has to be processed, but it is often easily accessible digitally. In Peek, the teacher can see live results that have been entered by students. The data can easily be exported as well.

This not only makes it easy to discuss the excursion with the participants and to review assignments together, but also makes research and analysis easier.

Students get feedback easier or faster

Going on a field excursion with a large group? And execute/process your assignments on printed materials? Then as a student you often don’t get any feedback. And if you do, not until long after the excursion. While everyone knows: feedback is necessary to be able to learn well.

With online/mobile solutions it is possible to provide students with feedback immediately, at the right time. In Peek, for example, we do this with measure questions and multiple choice questions: as a student you can immediately see whether your answer is right or wrong. In addition, the app offers options to provide more extensive feedback in text or, for example, a video.

In addition, the teacher has an immediate overview of the results/scores of students, and a comparison or analysis can easily be made. This provides opportunities for in-depth feedback afterwards.

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Sharing field excursions material becomes easier

Field excursions conducted year after year by the same teacher are not always well documented. Handing over the excursion to a colleague is sometimes complicated. Knowledge and experience is often lost. On a digital platform like Peek it is easy to transfer an excursion to another teacher.

In addition, it is even possible for a university to use the excursion of another educational institution. We regularly receive questions about this in our community. This makes knowledge transfer even easier and as a university you benefit as much as possible from the experiences and knowledge of your colleagues.

Ask our ‘Trip designers’ for advice

Peek has already designed dozens of excursions for various schools and universities. Our Trip designers are happy to think along with you about how you can redesign your field excursions with Peek. We would like to hear from you!