Page 23 - Campus Technology, June 2017
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1) Identify the Need
Ask faculty members to describe the problem they are trying to solve, recommended NC State lead instructional designer Cathi Dunnagan, who, along with colleagues Cuales and Bethanne Tobey, recently put on a workshop at SXSWedu to help faculty members begin designing their own VR experiences. Questions to ask: Why do you want to offer an immersive 360-degree experience? What purpose does that serve in terms of leading to student success? “Don’t jump in just to be doing it,” asserted Dunnagan. The NC State DELTA team has developed worksheets to help faculty members think through the process, especially when they get to the point of becoming content creators.
Duke’s Evans agrees. “We ought to look at experiences for students that are too expensive, too dangerous, too rare or too geographically remote for them to get to otherwise,” she said. “If a student can get an experience another way that is easier and cheaper, then we ought to do that.” For instance, one of Duke’s Middle East Studies faculty members is going to send graduate students to Morocco, where they will shoot 360-degree videos to bring back for students who can’t make the trip.
2) Start Small and Don’t Overinvest
Although more sophisticated users might use higher- end video capture tools and post-production software
“We ought to look at experiences for students that are too expensive, too dangerous, too rare or too geographically remote for them to get to otherwise.”
—Elizabeth Evans, Duke University
applications, the NC State team likes to present low-end tools so faculty members can start to get comfortable with what is possible. “We are talking about a $300 camera and free or near-free software to create point-to-point tours,” Cuales said.
He advised that colleges and universities shouldn’t over- invest because the technology is changing so fast. “What looks awesome today may be gone tomorrow, because the company went belly up,” he noted, or a technology could become obsolete because the vendor rapidly improved on it. “VR is being adopted in various industries at an alarming rate, which means the technology behind it is moving so quickly.” Still, from an institutional standpoint, just getting faculty and staff members’ hands on the tools is mission- critical, Cuales said. “You cannot read in a book what VR is or isn’t,” he insisted. “You must experience it. And the more faculty we can get to experience the technology, the faster we are going to come up with really great applications that are efficient at conveying their subject matter or solving a problem.”
3) Partner With Your Library
The library system at NC State is a natural partner for the DEL- TA team. “We are sharing best practices with VR with them, so the library can outfit our faculty and student populations at scale,” said Tobey. “We are a fairly small crew, but the library can loan out Samsung Gear 360 cameras, and put on work- shops and hands-on demonstrations to train the bulk of the university. We are more on the innovative or experimental side.”
A recent demo event in the library’s “Technology Sandbox” featured the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive and Microsoft HoloLens set up for people to try out. Library staff assisted with the gear. The library announced it would soon have Oculus Rift kits available for checkout.
Duke’s Evans said her group often sets up demo tables so people can get hands-on experience with VR. “We have purchased several wireless-only cell phones for demo tables, because when you are doing demonstrations it is very hard to get people to download an app to try something,” she said. “We bought three refurbished phones ... and then load the apps on them. It works perfectly for demos.”4

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