Give alternate realities a try

by | 20 Nov, 2017 | 0 comments

There’s great potential for Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR), and Mixed Reality (MR) to enhance the future of teaching, learning and research in the university setting.

FASS and DAB at UTS have already started experimenting with VR, but you may be wondering how your faculty can  join in on the fun. The barriers to entry with these new technologies seem high, we’ve put together a simple introduction to make testing the waters a little easier.

 

So what’s all the buzz about?

Many industries are dipping their toe in the virtual water and doing some incredible things – VR has been used in cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) for public speaking anxiety. AR is being used to enhance student learning by making hard-to-imagine concepts visible – for example, students gained a deeper conceptual understanding of the Bernoulli’s principle by observing the superimposed flow of air currents over a ball to see just how it floats in mid-air. AR is also an amazing marketing opportunity. Ikea has released an AR app which allows you to place furniture into your home, on the street – pretty much anywhere you can point your phone camera.

Following the VR presentation at the LX.lab and numerous blog posts, this technology is something that has the UTS community very interested. And why shouldn’t we be? We’re proud of our close ties to industry and pride ourselves on our forward thinking. UTS Library can provide opportunities for staff and students to try these technologies so they can see the possibilities themselves.

 

Well what can you do with it at the moment?

Consume

The easiest way to get into VR is by experiencing the content that’s already available and use it in a creative way to enhance teaching. Are you teaching anatomy? Show students the inside of a human brain or body. Is there a presentation component to your students’ assessment? Suggest they trial VirtualSpeech, a public speaking practicing app, to run through their presentation in front of a virtual audience.  Is your topic social justice? Be immersed in a documentary and reflect on the unspoken issues that are presented. Free content can be found on the Apple iTunes, the Google Play store, YouTube and Vimeo, differing in purpose from storytelling to educational. It’s just a matter of finding the content that fits your needs.

UTS Library has already put together a YouTube playlist of exceptional VR content for students. The list is continually growing, so check back often for new additions!

Curate

There are many VR resources available online for you to not only use as is, but also modify. For example, teachers can tailor their lesson plans to feature content from Google Expeditions, enabling ‘field trips to virtually anywhere’. Students can go on immersive virtual journeys to places well outside of academic budgeting limits. Create your own or choose one of Google Expeditions 700+ pre-made expeditions and lesson plans that are already available.

 

Create

Be bold and make the jump from being a consumer to a producer. Don’t worry, the learning curve is forgiving. You can start simply  by using your phone’s panorama feature or try use Google Street View to stitch a scene together and start thinking in 360- degrees. Or instead of documenting your surroundings, you can create an object in real life for your virtual life using pre-made open source assets in Poly. From here, you can challenge yourself to make something larger in scale or wider in scope using different tools to express a concept or idea in your teaching or research. The challenge is figuring out what you want to show or tell and then figuring out the best way to do it – but we can help put you on the right track.

 

Getting Virtual

Getting acquainted with new technologies like VR is a way of opening the floodgates to digital literacy. Empowering students to design and prototype projects using the latest technologies, while building on soft skills like creativity and communication will stand them in good stead for future learning and career development.

So, do you want to take a dive into the deep virtual ocean or just dip your toe in? Either way, there’s plenty of support at UTS to help you go virtual. As well as offering Lynda.com tutorials on niche technologies like VR, UTS Library supports digital literacy through access to borrowable equipment like VR headsets.

If you’re feeling confident, you can book the headsets to use in your teaching or if you’d like some tips, contact your Faculty Librarian who can help you develop a bespoke session for your students or faculty.

This post was co-authored by Wei Cai, Luke Stefanac, and Sarah Su.

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