Our work: Digital Learning

Virtual Field Trips

Digital field trips offer unique affordances to expand access to locales, capture sense of place, and foreground agency within an experiential learning environment.

The Virtual Field Trips program develops tools and learner-centered frameworks to create and co-experience navigable worlds via immersive, 360-degree photos and videos.


Virtual field trips (VFTs) can take a variety of forms, but at their core, they enable learners to engage with a location, often without physically traveling there, in a digitally mediated way.  VFTs can broaden access to locations and experiences and may help mitigate inequities due to cost, accessibility, or inclusivity. Advances in technology have reduced the barriers to creation, opening opportunities for educators and students to become content creators, embedding concepts in locally or personally meaningful contexts.

The science and design behind how to structure activities to create engaging and effective virtual field trips is lagging behind technology growth. Virtual field trips have the potential to support learning by increasing learner connectedness, whether to the land, to a phenomenon, or to other people. This program aims to explore and promote the use of virtual field trips for supporting meaningful learning.

Faculty leads

Headshot of Dan Schwartz

Dan Schwartz

The Halper Family Faculty Director, Stanford Accelerator for Learning and Faculty Director, Digital Learning Initiative

Headshot of Bryan Brown

Bryan Brown

Professor, Graduate School of Education

Research team

Kristen Pilner Blair

Director of Research, Digital Learning Initiative

Keith Bowen

Director, Learning Design Challenge

Catherine Chase

Research Director, AI + Education

Doris Chin

Senior Research Scholar, Graduate School of Education

Aman Desai

Social Science Research Professional, Graduate School of Education

Ryan Petterson

Director of Field Education, Doerr School of Sustainability

Ana Saavedra

Postdoctoral Scholar, Graduate School of Education

Joe Sherman

Digital Media Producer, Graduate School of Education

Kendra Sobomehin

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate School of Education

Reuben Thiessen

Project Management Specialist, Stanford Accelerator for Learning

Wilson Wang

Assistant Director of Data Science & Cloud Architecture, Graduate School of Education

Josh Weiss

Director of Digital Learning Solutions, Graduate School of Education

Rachel Wolf

Social Science Research Scholar, Graduate School of Education

Anna Queiroz

Postdoctoral researcher, Communication

In action

How virtual field trips work

Virtual field trips offer unique affordances to expand access to locales, capture sense of place, and foreground agency within an experiential learning environment.

Resources for educators

Helping Students and Educators to Create VFTs 

The Stanford Accelerator for Learning is developing resources and frameworks to support practitioners and learners to create and share their environments through virtual field trips.

We are finding that engaging with and creating their own virtual field trips can help students see science as more relevant to themselves and their communities, and support rich learning opportunities. In collaboration with elementary, middle, and high school teachers and informal educators, we are developing lesson plans, templates, models, and guides to support effective creation and sharing of virtual field trips.

Developing Science Instruction Modules for Teachers

Our team works to create, study, and share models of virtual field trips that educators can integrate into their curriculum, advancing rich and responsive science education. We are developing and studying ways virtual field trips can be incorporated in to science curriculum, including:

  • Next Generation Science Standards-aligned modules that can be incorporated into high school classes
  • Modules for teaching college-level geology that will be empirically tested at Stanford and made publicly available to instructors everywhere.
  • Models of integration with in-person field experiences to reduce anxiety when used as preparation and support feedback when used post trip.

Learn more

Funding opportunities

To catalyze Stanford’s interdisciplinary expertise to advance research, creativity, and implementations of virtual field trips as a way to provide rich digital experiences that go beyond traditional “textbook” content, we fund VFT research and design projects.

To date, we have funded 14 proposals representing 6 of Stanford’s 7 schools. Through this work we are developing a community within Stanford interested in advancing learning through virtual field trips, and we are learning about new models for teaching and assessing with virtual field trips in domains ranging from ecology to civil engineering to music.

Link to Learn more
Deadline: September 30, 2021

The Science and Design of Virtual Field Trips

Funded concept-proving research and designs that advance learning in the area of virtual field trips.
Learn more →

Explore a virtual field trip

Fourth grade students from High Tech Elementary North County created a virtual field trip to teach others about the geology of their local county parks. Click the blue arrows to explore.