Field Work in the Classroom – Remote Context

Field work is important to your course because it provides a way for students to meet experiential outcomes, build a professional identity, feel engaged in their learning, and can help students retain knowledge and understanding. Some programs may rely on fieldwork for attracting new students and for maintaining outreach with community partners.

  • Can students meet experiential outcomes this semester in a remote context, independently?
  • Do students need this outcome to meet the course objectives? Take Inventory of what you already have.
  • How might students build a professional identify outside of the fieldwork context?
  • How might we engage students with their profession to build knowledge and understanding, outside of fieldwork?

In the remote context, concerns might include limited access to technology, risk management, funding of equipment, access to sites, the evolving public health situation. Plan to provide context and be prepared with back-up plans such as alternate ways of meeting course outcomes.

  • How will students access the appropriate equipment?
  • How will the risks associated with fieldwork be managed?
  • What is the access and safety at the site? What safety protocols are in place?

The USask Field Work Decision Tree is designed for USask Research, but may provide valuable insight as you plan for course-based field work.

The downside of fieldwork is that it can be hard to integrate with course content, difficult to assess, and student engagement varies. Field work involve logistics, scheduling, and human resources management.

  • Communicate with your students more deliberately and frequently than you would in a face-to-face environment. Communicating caring and flexibility whenever you can will reduce student anxiety and increase learning. Connect students and collaborators early-on to help build their relationship – particularly in isolated settings where students may need to rely more directly with collaborators for project and living assistance.
  • Keep it easy – Use USask approved tools that any student can access. Course Tools (Blackboard and Canvas) for planning and scheduling, WebEx for simultaneous and live conversations, Panopto for demonstrations. In addition to desktop recordings, Panopto can be used to record and distribute videos taken on your phone’s camera from the field. These videos can be linked and uploaded directly to your course or shared via email with a link. This might be a way to share fieldwork experiences with students, remotely.

Please refer to our post about remote placements and practicums for assistance on the logistics of planning for placements, specifically on how to onboard and supervise students remotely.

Seek support from the Gwenna Moss Centre, Distance Education Unit, and IT Support Services

Referenced in this post:  Munge, B., Thomas, G., & Heck, D. (2018). Outdoor Fieldwork in Higher Education: Learning From Multidisciplinary Experience. Journal of Experiential Education, 41(1), 39–53. https://doi.org/10.1177/1053825917742165

Additional readings

Hester, J. L. (2020, May 10). This is what scientific fieldwork is like during the time of COVID-19. Retrieved from https://www.motherjones.com/environment/2020/05/this-is-what-scientific-fieldwork-is-like-during-the-time-of-covid-19/

Beltran, R. S., Marnocha, E., Race, A., Croll, D. A., Dayton, G. H., & Zavaleta, E. S. (2020). Field courses narrow demographic achievement gaps in ecology and evolutionary biology. Ecology and Evolution. doi: 10.1002/ece3.6300