Place-based education through immersive virtual experiences — preparing biology students for the field

Jan Oliver Wallgrün*, Jack Shen Kuen Chang, Jiayan Zhao, Peter Trenham, Pejman Sajjadi, Mark Simpson, Alexander Klippel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Virtual field trips are transforming education in biology and other place-based disciplines–and not just since Covid-19 has imposed social distancing constraints. Efficient methods for content creation, combined with affordable immersive technology, provide the opportunity to integrate immersive experiences into ever-larger classes. However, many aspects of how immersive experiences can enrich and improve learning in place-based education are still not well understood. We present an empirical study, conducted in a large undergraduate ecology class, comparing students, that experienced an immersive virtual version of a field trip to a biological preserve as preparation for a later actual field trip to the site, with a control group that visited the real site but without having had the virtual experience. Within the virtual experience group, we also varied the quality of the headset. The VR field trip was well received for raising spatial awareness and also motivation and interest. Students ranked it higher than any traditional means with regard to achieving a high level of preparedness for the actual field trip. In contrast, no statistically significant evidence was found for differences in perceived learning outcome and enjoyment of the actual field trip.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)406-429
JournalJournal of Biological Education
Issue number2
Early online date4 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • fieldwork preparation
  • higher education
  • Immersive virtual reality
  • place-based learning
  • virtual field trips


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