Tag Archives: DEG

Connecting on virtual reality through the UCISA bursary

David Vince
Senior Product Development Manager, Learning and Teaching Innovation
The Open University

Six months on from Realities 360 2018, San Jose

This year the UCISA bursary scheme enabled me to attend Realities 360. The conference, only in its second year, attracted an international audience of hundreds of colleagues working in education and interested in augmented, virtual and mixed reality. Having searched for an event closer to the UK, without success, it simply wouldn’t have been possible to attend the conference without UCISA’s support.
At the time of the conference, I was in the early stages of a project exploring the affordances of VR in education. As a distance university, our students at The Open University are geographically dispersed and study asynchronously. This poses us some unique challenges, particularly when introducing new or emergent technologies like VR. At the time, we had undertaken two small scale VR pilots to refine our VR production process. One of these pilots was a presentation practice tool for law students which gave them the opportunity to present virtually and take questions from a virtual audience. This gave students the opportunity to practice applying the law to near real-world problems and receive analytics data to aid their reflection before undertaking the task in person. I soon learned that VR demanded a new approach to design and construction over established media due to its uniquely immersive properties. I’ve used my experience of the conference to learn from other’s practice and refine our production processes. I’m now leading the project at a phase where we need to transition from a discreet R&D project to operating at greater scale.
One of the key takeaways from Realities 360 was to see how others were approaching the design and creation of VR experiences. It helped me to better understand immersion as a new form of narrative. There is a need to consider how users might interact (i.e. the interface being used – not forgetting voice, gesture and haptic interfaces) with virtual objects, as well as how those objects behave, so as to go beyond the affordances of established media.
Sharing my conference experience with my immediate team has led us to consider how we can enhance the design of our VR experiences. There’s a gap in evaluation of VR in education and we’re exploring how analytics might infer where students are becoming more proficient with tasks, and therefore eliminate the need to present them with text-based questions and interrupt their experience.
Learning from the conference has been shared internally at our annual university-wide Learn About Fair. This has enabled us to connect with faculty staff who see the potential for using VR in their discipline. It’s also helped us to attract support from a senior stakeholder!
Last week, my team presented at the ‘Immersive Environments’ event organised by UCISA’s Digital Education Group. This gave us the opportunity to share an output of the project, which is a VR suitability toolkit intended to support the design and creation of pedagogically viable VR.
Undoubtedly, the biggest benefit from the bursary has been the opportunity to connect with, and learn from, colleagues both nationally and internationally. This has given us a forum to share our experience and develop a support network, and learn how others are solving some of the technical challenges and issues of scale associated with producing VR.
Interested in finding out more about a UCISA bursary, then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.

Developing ideas in pedagogical transparency for staff and students

Brandon Davies
Junior Audio-Visual Technician
City, University of London

Spotlight on Digital Capabilities, June 2018

When I applied for the UCISA bursary scheme, I immediately identified “Spotlight on Digital Capabilities”, as an ideal conference for what I feel is a most urgent and interesting point of contention within the higher education system today. The potential and ambition within the realm of future teaching-enhancing techniques is intense, and the conference further embodied this.
In my blog, I’m going to focus on two talks from the conference, with which I most connected. I will then expand that consolidation of information into my own thoughts on digital pedagogical applications.

Certification for IT training: options and approaches – Gareth Johns

The talk by Gareth Johns on options and approaches for IT training was eye opening.  The options presented brought together a vital mix of ingredients essential to constructing a sustainable system for engagement, efficiency and certification validity.
The MOS Course (Microsoft Office Specialist) is an official course run and certified by Microsoft themselves.  Using this as a benchmark for digital capabilities is a fantastic way to give staff and students a goal that is not just useful for working within the university, but an incredibly useful skill as a whole. Having a highly recognized qualification as the goal, helps add to staff and students’ employability skills for their career, as well as increasing the efficiency with which digital technology is used, and furthers the transition into modern teaching spaces.

Employability as a result of proficiency

As an Audio-Visual technician myself, the vastly increasing use of digital technology within teaching spaces, can be bewildering for staff and students.  However, these spaces have the potential to provide an increasingly communicative, inclusive and engaging form of teaching. Simply setting the MOS course as a goal is not enough.  At Cardiff Metropolitan University, Gareth has implemented interactive pages on Moodle, in which a more bespoke and broken down version of the course lessons can be taught. This, as well as regular seminars, creates a far more friendly environment and approach for learning the necessary skills required for passing MOS. Using real spreadsheets that staff and students interact with, helps bring home how useful these skills can be in day to day life. This contextualisation, as well as additional practice software such as G-Metrix, creates the infrastructure necessary for an intuitive and accessible course.

Developing a holistic institutional approach to digital capabilities development – Karen Barton

Karen’s talk opened my mind to a totally different approach to digital capabilities development, an holistic approach. Rather conveniently from my alma mater (University of Hertfordshire), Karen immediately separated herself from other approaches by viewing the situation from a larger perspective.
This picture from her slide perfectly demonstrates the side effects of a non-centralised approach to providing answers. With too many parties providing their own solutions, the result can be an overcrowded and inefficient environment.

 

 

Having a specific investigative objective from senior management, as one would expect, seems to have gone a long way in progressing Karen’s work. The use of a pilot programme as a result of the extensive resources allocated, is a great way to slowly refine the scheme before being finalised.
Five other universities have signed up to Hertfordshire’s pilot, a collaboration benefiting everybody. At Hertfordshire, the total redesign of the VLE has given the team there an opportunity to apply different pedagogical practices into the most commonly used software around the university. This has provided an exceptional opportunity to increase the accessibility and efficiency of the scheme. Such long-term integration of digital capability approaches, enables an accretion of infrastructure to the point where the very fabric of being a part of the university exposes you to the certification course and its requirements. Many different speakers from a variety of universities pointed out the use of Lynda.com and Karen was no exception. I’d recommended my university (City, University of London) consider the use of Lynda. I’ve used Lynda for personal development in the past and can speak only highly of it.
Here are a few ideas I have for increasing the success rate and enthusiasm for an IT certification scheme.

Don’t Fall Behind in the Digital Age

Marketing Ideas:
  • Giving a focus on the employability aspect of the course is vital; certification within digital capabilities is hugely beneficial in the modern job market. Indicate the need to stay ahead in the digital age and not fall behind, reinforce the accreditation from Microsoft. The opportunities for lecturers to save on valuable teaching time by becoming increasingly proficient with digital technology within the classroom, is an additional marketing focus.

Increase your chances of a higher salary!

  • Holding a prize within the course for exceptional students and staff could also be hugely beneficial to providing additional incentives.

Conclusions

Homogenising the wide variety of ideas and approaches from the conference is not an easy task.  However, what I’ve mentioned goes a long way to solidifying my own approach to a task requiring a great deal of re-wiring across higher education as a whole, which has no easy solution.
I’d like to thank all the speakers from the conference and UCISA for giving me the opportunity through the bursary scheme to attend. I hope to share my findings with staff at City, University of London, and encourage conversation on an incredibly interesting and complex subject.
Interested in applying for a UCISA bursary? Then visit UCISA Bursary Scheme.