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In a classroom without walls, learning can happen anywhere

Ocean ecology and biogeochemistry professor Byron Crump instructs Oregon State Ecampus students in the lab of a research vessel on an estuary at Yaquina Bay. The video is one of two field trips he incorporates into his Estuarine Ecology online course.

By Julie Cooper
July 5, 2018

An education with Oregon State Ecampus can take students places they never expected.

And that’s not only because a top-ranked degree opens up new pathways for their futures. Ecampus students often find themselves visiting unfamiliar places to complete their course work through field trips.

Many Ecampus faculty members incorporate field trips into their courses to ensure learning is complemented by real-world application – whether that requires students to venture to a new area in their local community or virtually explore a new location across the country or world.

Some instructors assign “do-it-yourself” field trips, which require students to visit relevant places or events in their local areas. Students may spend time at a cemetery to collect regional data on life expectancy, a place of worship to understand an unfamiliar religion, or an art exhibit or live performance to write a critical review.

Through virtual reality technologies, Oregon State’s online students have identified and photographed birds in their natural habitats in Oregon wetlands and maneuvered through a 3D greenhouse to explore plants and their defining characteristics.

Ocean ecology and biogeochemistry professor Byron Crump often uses field trips in his online courses. He recently worked with Ecampus multimedia staff to create a video tour of an Oregon State research vessel and the Natural Estuarine Research Reserve in Coos Bay, Oregon.

A person's hands over a white bucket full of water and collected samples from the marsh.

“The Natural Estuarine Research Reserve has a whole team of educators. They teach the students how to do different measurements and how to interface with the online, real-time database they produce,” says Byron. “The students get a lot out of that.”

On the vessel, he shows students how to use safety equipment, collect samples and examine them in its lab – the same high-quality learning provided by an in-person tour, minus the seasickness.

“In this class (Estuarine Ecology), we make sure students learn about as many different types of estuaries as they can,” Byron says. “Seeing one in person, especially for the students who are not on coasts, is really important. It helps them visualize what we talk about in class and learn from other instructors.”

An Ecampus field trip gives faculty a transferable resource that expands the opportunities for every student to participate.

No matter the topic, instructors can work with the Ecampus course development and training team to design field trips that meet the learning outcomes and needs of distance students.

“The students really like these engaging activities, and anytime you provide a different way for a student to learn something, you’re going to reach more students,” says Ecampus instructional designer Dorothy Loftin. “It’s also important to take into account every learning style. That’s one of the reasons why we ask, ‘Is there a concept students have a hard time grasping?’ We know that offering it to them in a different format is going to help elevate the number of students who understand the concept.”

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