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Achieving Desired Student Outcomes in Virtual Field Experiences through Attention to Design Considerations: A Delphi Study

Journal of College Science Teaching—January/February 2024

By , ,

Virtual field experiences (VFEs) hold promise as a mechanism to approximate the in situ field experiences that are central to many undergraduate programs in the natural sciences. In this Delphi study, the collective expertise of 26 VFE experts was sought to provide insight on the design considerations they use for VFEs and the resultant student outcomes they expect or observe. The Delphi panelists ranked alignment to learning goals, social interactions, consideration of student contexts, authenticity and pedagogical approach as the five most important design considerations. The panel ranked “soft skills”, affective outcomes, connection to issues, and aspects of the nature of science as the most important outcomes of VFEs. In considering the interactions of design characteristics and student outcomes, social interactions and authenticity were most often cited as the best way to achieve the desired “soft skills” and affective engagement, though these were also cited as the most challenging for achieving through VFEs. Delphi panelists’ recommendations for effective design of VFEs, aligned to specific desired outcomes, are synthesized.
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