Virtual teaching has become the new norm at post-secondary institutions during the current pandemic. As instructors adapt, SFU researchers Steve DiPaola and Jeremy Turner see opportunities to push virtual worlds further—as they are doing this semester by enabling their students to become avatars.
Students and instructors are using Tivoli Cloud VR in classes led by DiPaola, a professor in the School of Interactive Arts and Technology, and Turner, a Cognitive Sciences instructor, to set up their own personal avatars and join the virtual classroom. The researchers are using the new, open source virtual reality platform to experiment with advanced and cutting-edge VR techniques.
In the virtual classroom, users can navigate about the room and talk to other users. The platform is built to have fully functional media surfaces, allowing users to display slides, media files, and show videos within the virtual classroom.
CTV News also covered their work (there’s also a video you can watch at that link):
DiPaola, who specializes in virtual reality at SFU’s School of Interactive Arts and Technology, said students “attend” class by logging in to the open source virtual reality platform, or they can stream the class on Twitch.
The technology is also being used to train nursing students in Australia, allowing them to complete their practicums virtually, because they’re not currently allowed in hospitals.
“We’re starting it in Australia where we’ve got approval to do it,” DiPaola explained, “and we’re doing it in simulated ways with simulated avatars.”
What’s next? The professors said it is not out of the realm of possibility for an instructor to recreate environments such as dig sites for an archaeology class, for example.
“We think there’s advantages for all kinds of training,” DiPaola said.
For now, Turner teaches two cognitive sciences classes, each of which has between 80 to 100 students.
I’m looking forward to see what Steve and Jeremy do next!