Learning technologists from Academic IT have been giving staff and students a taste of technology at specially organised roadshows around the University. Designed to raise awareness of the Digital Education Strategy, the roadshows allow staff and students to ask questions and try out new technology such as virtual reality (VR). The emphasis is on technologies that have applications for teaching and learning; enhancing the experience in face-to-face, online, or blended scenarios.
Steve and Xav (also known as the ‘WISE Guys’) started by organising fortnightly roadshows at the Manor Road Building and the Mathematics Institute. Each session takes place from 11am-2pm.
Steve and Xav demonstrated a number of technologies:
- VR headsets
- a 360-degree camera
- a pop-up classroom in a suitcase, including a small projector
- the Digital Education Strategy website
So far, the response has been very good. Sixty people have attended the roadshows, including eight academics. Staff and students suggested some excellent ways to use VR, such as field trips, historical scenarios, spatial environments, and visualisation of topology in mathematics.
So, why virtual reality? The learning technologists chose VR as a ‘hook’ to attract interest and let people play with technology. Small groups in the University are already working with this technology for teaching or applied research. During the roadshow, Steve and Xav were also accompanied by Richard Smith (Radcliffe Science Library) who brought along the Library’s VR headsets which have proved popular with students and academics. Richard ran a competition for the best ideas on how to use VR for teaching and learning; already good ideas have emerged, such as data visualisation in 4D applied to social science.
Lessons learnt and next steps:
- The majority who attended the roadshows were students, partly due to the location near lecture theatres in the Maths Institute.
- VR was a great hook. However, it tended to overshadow other technologies and methodologies that the team wanted to promote as part of the DES. At the next roadshow, it is planned to use touch-screen technology to demonstrate interactive models.
- Several staff asked for a mailing list or group (perhaps VR@Oxford?) that could answer questions such as ‘Is VR being used for teaching at Oxford? Who’s doing it? Are there opportunities for collaboration?’
The next roadshows takes place in Maths (on Thursday 2nd February) and in the Manor Road Building (on Thursday 9th February). For more information, read Learning technologists out and about in Maths and Social Sciences.
Image credits: Steve Burholt, Xavier Laurent