Page 24 - Campus Technology, June 2017
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5) Build a Campuswide VR Community
In addition to engaging the library as a partner, it helps to have an interest group around VR, said Tobey. Conversations on the NC State campus led to the formation of the Virtual Reality Interest Group (VRIG). “Anybody can attend VRIG meetings, and it involves different topics and locations,” she said. “It is building a community here instead of us operating in silos. Multiple units from across campus are holding meetings where people are doing show-and-tells.”
Duke’s Evans noted that although her office does not have a setup where people can come experience VR tools on a regular basis, the computer lab group is talking about the possibility of creating labs specifically for that purpose.
6) Keep Researching New Developments
NC State continues to explore both the high and low ends of the VR market. For instance, for a biodiversity course DELTA might help develop some immersive content in a web-based environment but at the same time build it out in Unreal Engine, a suite of integrated tools for designing games, simulations and visualizations. “It goes back to the critical need to have exposure to what tools are capable of and where development costs come into play,” Cuales said. “We are trying to understand what our capacity might need to be in the near future and keep pace with where outside industry is going with time, money and resources.
We are going to see rapid changes in game engines that will afford us more capabilities in analytics. It is important to keep a broad view of what is possible.”
7) Work With Other Campuses
Duke’s Evans said that events such as SXSWedu and the Educause Learning Initiative Annual Meeting are great places to learn about what other campuses are doing with VR and AR.
NC State recently joined an organization called VR First, which is developing a consortium of universities exploring the topic. (VR First describes itself as a global program designed to provide state-of-the-art facilities to anyone interested in exploring the power and potential of virtual reality development.) “Their tagline is ‘Democratizing VR/ AR Innovation.’ We are hoping to contribute to and learn from that global community,” Cuales said. “We have no idea what is going to come of it, but that is in line with our mission in launching VRIG because we want to share what we have done and learn from a larger community. There is so much to learn. We are part of a pioneering effort that I hope will better inform and strengthen the ties and the impact of VR in education.”
David Raths is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia.
In 2016, the IT department at the University of Washington Bothell held one-on-one meetings with faculty members so they could experience the Oculus Rift VR headset and consider pedagogical uses for the technology. UW Bothell IT has partnered with the campus makerspace to make the Oculus Rift available as makerspace equipment for both students and faculty.
In a video created by the IT department, Dale Ahvakana, network application specialist, said, “We approached faculty who haven’t had experience with VR before, because we want to expose them to the Oculus Rift and get their initial idea of what the technology might do for them.”
In addition to the Oculus Rift, faculty members were exposed to other devices, such as an Xbox controller, motion controllers and muscle- reading tools. Each faculty session consisted of four to six demo applications with varying degrees of interaction, ranging from riding a roller coaster to a simulation of being weightless in a space station and interacting with objects.
Gary Carpenter, a lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, told the IT team that his first impression was that the immersion was very realistic. “I didn’t know the technology was quite that far along,” he said, but he added that he thought the learning curve for including its use in a course would be steep.
Ahvakana said that meeting with the faculty members had been informative. The faculty members got to experience VR and gave their initial impressions. “They could walk away with ideas for future classes, but I think it is a little early to integrate it into their classes in an everyday sense,” he said. “Hopefully [the experience] will inform future applications the Oculus will provide and fill in the gaps that they see in their classes. We are excited to see what they have to offer.”

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