[dropcap]T[/dropcap]here is a wide range of apps offering free virtual reality content for educators that can be viewed with a $10 Google Cardboard Viewer, including Google Expeditions, 360 Videos on YouTube, New York Times VR, and others. Take a look at Virtual Real for Education
and Easy Methods for Using Virtual, Augmented, and Mixed Reality in Your Teaching
to learn about them.
But many faculty are making their own virtual reality content. The simplest method is to shoot virtual reality videos on a cell phone with the Google Cardboard Camera app. Simply download it from Google Play, open the app, click “record,” and then point the phone’s camera forward while rotating around slowly and speaking to create a virtual reality video of your surroundings. The result can then be shared with students who can watch on their own cell phones.
This type of virtual reality is an ideal way to create course content while on vacation. A history teacher can shoot videos of Roman architecture while visiting Italy, while a theater instructor can shoot videos of different theater configurations he or she encounters. Students can also make virtual reality videos that illustrate or apply course concepts. Students in an urban planning course can shoot videos around their town illustrating urban planning strategies, while students in a forestry class can shoot videos in local parks while describing how they represent nature management principles.
The downside is virtual reality shot with a cell phone is more akin to 360 degree images, like Google Street View, than true virtual reality. The scene must be still during the cell phone shoot or the recording will blur; making this method good for shooting locations, such as parks, churches, or buildings, rather than events with action.
A second drawback is that the resulting files are tricky to transfer. They cannot be posted to hosting sites like YouTube because the file type is not compatible. The file needs to be on the cell phone itself during viewing.
To get the video to others, the individual needs to first share it from their camera to a file transfer site, such as Box or Dropbox, and then give the link to others to download the file. The person viewing it then needs to move the file into the “DCIM/Cardboard Camera” folder on an Android cell phone. This folder is set up by the Google Cardboard Camera app and contains all of the virtual reality videos. Once a file is put into that folder, the person can watch it through their Google Cardboard Camera app.
While cell-phone video is quick and easy, and this path to virtual reality is still quite valuable for educational purposes, many faculty are now creating virtual reality movies with $300 VR cameras. This is a good opportunity for faculty and instructional designers to collaborate in developing course content. Many schools are purchasing these cameras to have available for faculty or student use. The difference from cell phones is that these cameras have multiple lens that can shoot moving images.
Washington University used a VR camera to shoot a virtual reality crime investigation for its criminology majors (Lieberman, 2018). They set up various scenes, such as a bloodied car, and shot multiple videos of these scenes. The videos were then uploaded to ThingLink
, which has a virtual reality mode that makes it ideal for hosting these videos. See how it works in this brief tutorial: https://youtu.be/nMJG5ioz1gk
The project illustrated the collaboration possibilities between faculty and instructional designers. The faculty created a backstory and shot various videos related to it. The instructional designer then added visual elements, such as police tape, using Adobe Photoshop and uploaded them to ThingLink.
The instructional designers also tagged the scenes with icons that students can open in ThingLink for more information as they pursue their investigation. For instance, they can click the blood on the side of the car to get a forensics report on it. But the tags also included “red herrings” of irrelevant information. This is an important addition, since much of investigative work involves distinguishing what is relevant from what is not. Students in academia are often given case studies with information that is already whittled down to what is important. But much of real- life work involved determining what is relevant, and simulations allow students the experience of having to make decisions about the relevance of information.
Stanford University created a virtual reality video that teaches how global warming is affecting coral reefs (Jordan, 2018). It was created by shooting a variety of scenes both in and out of the water and stitching them together. It is loaded to YouTube, and thus can be viewed with a Cardboard Camera at: https://youtu.be/mtB1NCrs1Dw
Stanford also went one step further by making an animated version that can be downloaded for free. It shows how coral reefs are dying due to ocean acidification. Other universities have gotten into creating animated virtual reality as well using programs such as Unity, which is for designing games. Paul Low at Washington and Lee University created an animated virtual reality tour of the inside of the Earth for geology students, as well as a tour of rock crystal structures (McNeal, 2017). Many of the elements for these projects already existed in various databases and just needed to be configured into a virtual reality environment. As the number of elements grows, faculty will have more and more options for mixing and matching them into their own virtual reality teaching modules.
Virtual reality is an excellent opportunity to expand course content.
Jordan, R. (2018). Stanford researchers release virtual reality simulation that transports users to ocean of the future.
Stanford University press release. Viewable at: https://news.stanford.edu/2016/10/18/virtual-reality-simulation-transports-users-ocean-future/
Lieberman, M. (2018). Trial and Error: Virtual Reality ‘as Memorable as the O.J. Simpson Case,’
Inside Higher Education, May 16, 2018.
McNeal, M. (2017). As Instructors Experiment With VR, a Shift From ‘Looking’ to ‘Interacting,’
EdSurge, Mar 9, 2017. Viewable at: https://bit.ly/2EM0abV