Integrating virtual reality into the classroom

Project Objective

This project aims to offer students a new pedagogical experience through the use of Virtual Reality goggles.  The VR goggles will create an immersive environment and expose students to real-life situations. (Posted March 2018)

Methods

February

As a pedagogical support coordinator, I was interested in learning more information about how the project was presented to the students and the way it was received by them.

I also wanted to know how the VR project helped with the development of the competencies in the courses they were used in, according to the competency-based approach.

Humanities and Special Care Counselling

I met two teachers, Johnathan Mina and Pascale Warmoes, to discuss the implementation of VR and the development of their competencies in their respective courses. I wanted to make sure that technology was being used efficiently to allow the development of elements of competencies and performance criteria.

In Pascale’s Interactions within Cultural Communities course (Special Care counselling) and in Johnathan’s Contemporary Ethical and Political Issues course (Humanities), they planned on using VR videos created to raise awareness human rights and cultural issues around the world through empathy.

In both courses, they used the same 360 applications: WITHIN and UNVR to develop empathy. They both asked students to download the apps on their Android phones or IOS Phones. These apps offer a catalogue of movies that have officially been sanctioned by the U.N. or other 3rd parties. Each movie offers a VR short-documentary or short movie experience that allows the user to immerse themselves in new surroundings.

Pascale and Johnathan used the app WITHIN to view three movies that deal with the ravages of war in their courses. Since the competencies are different, Pascale used these movies to offer her students the opportunity to come to a “first-hand” experience of what a refuge goes through in times of war. In this way, these future counsellors can have both a theoretical and emotional understanding of these potential clients’ world views. Essentially, the hope is to allow students to develop empathy for victims of war. For Johnathan, he introduced all three movies in his course when talking about the ethical issue of discrimination. When discussing whether Canada should accept more Syrian refugees who are fleeing war on ethical grounds, Johnathan noticed that discussions veered towards cold-rational logic that did not take into account the whole picture of the issue. He used VR in the hopes that students can see first-hand the conditions that refugees from any war had to live in and what exactly they were fleeing. In this way, students would acquire more empathy for these victims of war.

The movies they used were the following and can all be found in the App Within: 

  • Clouds Over Sidra: This is the first movie that was commissioned by the U.N. and it follows the story of a young 12 year old Syrian girl who currently lives in a refugee camp in Lebanon for the last two years. She shares her hopes, dreams and frustrations throughout the movie while the viewer is shown her surroundings.
  • In the case of New York Times: The Displacedthe viewer follows the story of three children from Sudan, Syria and the Ukraine who struggle to return to a normal life after the event of war. It offers a glimpse of the challenges they face and just how “upside-down” their lives become. One particular scene that is jaunting is of a young boy playing games next to an old missile in, what appears to be, his backyard.
  • For Giant , viewers are treated to the story of a Serbian family hiding in the basement while bombs are being dropped during war. They try to comfort their young daughter as bombs go off closer and closer to their home. While the movie is fictional, it is inspired by actual events.

In their case, the teachers were so interested in testing VR in their courses that they decided to purchase 20 Google Cardboard VR googles after attending a VR workshop last year at the Montreal IPAD Summit. Their decision to purchase their own material was based on the fact that they wanted to experiment with VR during the Fall semester before the College received their own VR viewers (Utopia Goggles) thanks to the SALTISE mini-grant. Nevertheless, once the College received their equipment they began to use it. They did mention that the VR equipment that the College purchased is better because it allows the user to adjust the focus and the spacing between the eyes for a more comfortable experience. The Utopia Googles are also a lot stronger.

Tourism

Two tourism teachers, Isabelle and Josie, decided to introduce the concept of virtual reality in the Tourism Products and clientele II and Final Project courses. At the beginning, they were only a few teachers working on the VR project, then talking to each other, more decided to join in. Josie will go to a Cultural and Tourist Attractions class to do a demonstration to the teacher and students how to use VR Googles.

“This concept promotes active learning, many emotions and being present in a product (the destination) that is an intangible product. These VR videos do touch the heart and play with emotions that the students will be engaged in creating and integrating it into their final presentation project or courses. These goggles will demonstrate and let the students be in their chosen destinations. Whether being inside visiting an attraction, a local community or simply taking you away and enjoying the beautiful view of the beaches, this will make it feel that you are part of the community or the adventure depending on the subject. The plan is, upon successful completion, to suggest other teachers implement and introduce VR to their courses’’.

Final projects will be held by the end of April.

March

At our Pedagogical Day March 1st, my colleague Mathieu Lépine made a small presentation of the VR project, to all teachers gathered for the event. Some of them, from other departments not involved yet, came and showed their interest in testing VR in class shortly.

Even though we thought some teachers would show resistance, we were surprised to see that, in fact, it’s the opposite; they invited us to the team leaders meeting next month, to present and experiment with VR.

Lessons Learned

For both projects, a survey will be conducted at the end of the semester to measure the impact of the VR technology on student motivation.

The results will be shared at Saltise Symposium.

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