Do Students Value On-Campus Field-Based Education? A Case Study of Science Educational Initiatives in the Jock Marshall Reserve

David G. Chapple, Laura Wilson, Rosemarie I. Herbert, Ricardo San Martin, Bruce Weir, Susie Ho


Fieldwork, known for fostering more engaging and authentic learning experiences, is an established tradition in higher education which is changing; increasingly run on-campus for financial and logistical reasons and enhanced through education technologies to reflect industry practices. Here we examine student perceptions of on-campus fieldwork with the aim of understanding if on-campus fieldwork was valued and why, to be able to compare against literature on off-campus fieldwork. We explore student views on activities at the Jock Marshall Reserve, an on-campus nature reserve of Monash University, Australia using mixed-methods approach. An online survey targeted students undertaking four subjects across first to third year and received 116 responses. In alignment with off-campus fieldwork studies, we found that overwhelmingly respondents highly valued fieldwork with dominant reasons being; 1) developed skills relevant to ‘real-world’ science, 2) reinforced theoretical learning, and 3) was more engaging than traditional study, with some benefits to their wellbeing. The novel perceptions related to increased convenience and authenticity. Since a majority of respondents wished to undertake on-campus fieldwork more frequently, this study suggests that the inclusion of on-campus fieldwork should be considered within science curriculum in higher education.