Anew generation of highly-skilled hospitality graduates across Australia and, potentially, the world, will goabout their business on the back of virtual learning experiences.

Virtual field trips to hotels are already enhancing the student experience at Griffith University following the roll-out of a pilot project as part of the International Tourism and Hotel Management program.

The successful pilot has led to Commonwealth funding worth $273,000 from the Office of Learning and Teaching to extend the virtual initiative across Australia. An international component will also be part of the development plan following strong interest from the hospitality sector in Asia and the United Kingdom.

Dr Anoop Patiar, Griffith Business School, is the project leader.

“Our aim is to enhance student skills and graduate employability through virtual field trips,” he says. “The Australian hospitality industry requires work-ready graduates who have the skills and knowledge to cope with the pressures of the job and deal with the daily challenges the industry throws up.”

Dr Patiar is collaborating with academics from the University of Queensland, Edith Cowan University and the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School, and industry representatives on the OLT project.

AnoopGroup“Traditionally, students have connected course content from the classroom with limited and unstructured on-site work experience in hotels and restaurants to hone these skills. In the future, however, virtual field trips will offer an alternative and flexible way to achieve this and more.

“Virtual field trips also have the potential to showcase the operations of a mix of national and international hotels and resorts, as well as independent restaurants. The student experience, therefore, will be enhanced through virtual field trips.”

To date, advances in technology have enabled students to examine each aspect of the food and beverage management of a particular hotel using the electronic device of their choice.

International Tourism and Hotel Management students at Griffith can take virtual field trips to watch interviews with managers from different departments of the Sofitel and Marriott hotels and observe workplace demonstrations and industry practice.

Behind the scenes

Hotel Management studentLinneaKarlssonused virtual field trips during her studies at Griffith Business School this year, after previously working as a food and beverage attendant and supervisor in Scandinavia.

“It was a great opportunity to go behind the scenes of a hotel and get an insight into what goes on,” the 28-year-oldsaid.

“We use technology in everything we do so this is a natural way to learn.”

The upgraded virtual field trips will provide 360-degree panoramas of hotel entrances, lobbies, bars and restaurants, as well as food production areas, with student appreciation of aspects like architectural design, interior décor, lighting and furniture sharpened.

The likely addition of hotels in Australia and overseas to the virtual program will give students greater scope to compare and contrast elements like design and layouts of food and beverage production and service areas, presentation of menus and wines lists and so on.

“We expect these added features will help to capture and hold student attention and ultimately result in improved student engagement with the university program,” Dr Patiar says.

“This can only enhance the quality of graduate entering the hospitality industry in the years ahead as the virtual experience from concept to specification builds skills to job-ready standard.

“Students both need and expect this kind of service from a university now. It gives them flexibility and it offers them a new and advanced means of interaction with technology.

“At the moment students are denied the physical field visit of the hotel’s food and beverage operation during class time, but they will be able to make that trip in their own time through the virtual field trips. In the classroom they will analyse and build on the virtual experience.

“We are also confident that virtual field trips will be welcomed and desired by potential industry employers in the future, as this will enable students to build their portfolios.”