Page 41 - Campus Technology, May/June 2018
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One of the first things ICAT did was to hire an immersive environment specialist to help faculty members who were incorporating the new space into their curricula.
“I remember Ben Knapp, ICAT’s director, used the term ‘concierge’ when he came up with the position,” recalled Zach Duer, who served in the job for a year and a half before becoming an assistant professor in the school of visual arts. “That’s because he envisioned multiple levels of service. Someone could come in just needing to hook up a video and I could help them do that,” Duer said, “or they could come in with a full project that is going to take two years to develop and I could help them with that, too.”
According to Duer, it’s a common problem that universities invest in new technologies such as immersive learning spaces but fail to create positions like his to help faculty learn how to use them. “Before I worked here, there was a constant problem of reinventing the wheel because one project would come up with something that would work in the Cube, and they would use it for that project, and then the next group would come in and have to do the same thing,” he said. “Part of my job was to become a centralized resource to help make tools and then turn them into publicly available resources.”
Colleges and universities face several hurdles in getting faculty to incorporate virtual reality or immersive experiences in their courses. For one, instructional designers, instructional
In Penn State’s Immersive Environment Lab, 360-degree photos and videos allow students to “visit” Rio de Janeiro’s favelas in virtual reality.
technologists and directors of teaching and learning centers may not have access to these tools yet, and the budgets aren’t always there to get the labs off the ground, noted Daniel Christian, instructional services director at Western Michigan University’s Cooley Law School. “Many faculty members’ job plates are already jam-packed — allowing little time to even look at emerging technologies,” he said. “Even if they wanted to experiment with such technologies and potential learning experiences, they don’t have the time to do so. Tight budgets are impacting this situation even further.”
Coffee and Visualization
Leaders of other immersive environment labs describe finding creative ways to engage faculty members. Mike Nutt, direc- tor of visualization services at North Carolina State Univer- sity’s Hunt Library, works to entice faculty into that facility’s Teaching and Visualization Lab, which has a 270-degree wrap-around screen.
“Not every faculty member can walk into that room and im- mediately understand what they should use a huge screen like that for or how that is different from the PowerPoint they
José Pinto Duarte, Penn State

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