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Preview of Virtual Reality Content for Higher Education Presentation at 2018 Global Summit

Apr 30, 2018, by Sara Aly
Tags: 2018 Internet2 Global Summit, Arts & Humanities, Frontpage News, Higher Education, Research & Education Networks, Science & Engineering, Teaching and Learning

By Mihaela Popescu, Kurt Collins and Yunfei Hou (California State University - San Bernardino)

It is surprising that quality virtual reality (VR) teaching content for higher education is almost non-existent, given the great pedagogical potential of the medium. Ever since the 2015 pioneering VR documentary Clouds over Sidra — which shone the light on the Syrian refugee crisis as seen by a 12-year old girl— helped United Nations raise almost 4 billion US dollars in donations, it has become clear that VR is a game-changer in both education and advocacy.

Indeed, VR—a medium that enables the construction of fully digital environments that users can inhabit and interact with—seems rife with teaching possibilities. Using VR, students are able to experience vivid, engaging and realistic learning experiences that make them more engaged. Imagine going back in time to the Jurassic to study the dinosaurs! Thanks to immersion and first-person perspectives, students can access unavailable eras and spaces. They can develop stronger emotional attachment to topics that render their learning experiences more meaningful and increase their social empathy. Last but not least, using VR simulations, students can also develop critical thinking in experiential situations and apply it in more realistic informal learning contexts.

So far, commercial VR development has not paid much attention to teaching content. Can teaching-intensive universities develop VR content on their own? It cannot be done, seems to be the common refrain, because VR production is too expensive and resource-intensive. One needs the right equipment, the right workflows, the right infrastructure, a lot of computing power, a lot of expertise and, at the very least, a CAVE.

With the support of our Information Technologies Services at California State University, San Bernardino, we begged to differ. We set out to prove that, with an interdisciplinary team of students, faculty, and staff, and by embedding the development of VR assets into the curriculum, we can well develop exciting VR learning content. By connecting faculty and students in art design, computer science, music, communication studies and anthropology, we created an organic, student-led collaboration on a VR project that prepare anthropology students to navigate an archeological field.

Our Global Summit presentation on May 9, 2018 at 3 p.m. chronicles this journey. We will present an archeological simulation in which students learn how to draw cultural inferences about field artifacts, as well as a variety of impactful student activities done with immersive technologies. We will explain how we used high impact practices to create classroom-based workflows for asset production and how we transformed some of the obstacles we encountered into learning opportunities. We hope you can join us!