Like regular classes, the date and time of live lectures are scheduled with teachers and students. However, instead of being held in a classroom, the lecture is conducted remotely using an immersive platform like EngageVR (see the Tools section for more information).
These platforms allow teachers to create a “world” (virtual learning space) that the lecture is held in. A world can look as traditional as a classroom or be as exciting as the surface of Mars. With the ability to quickly choose and switch between the digital environments, the environment itself can be used as a contextual part of the lesson.
When it comes time for the lecture, students can join using the platform’s software. Teachers will have the ability to control the accessibility of their lecture to only their students or be publicly available to anyone. As students join the lecture, the teacher will be able to see, communicate, and interact with everyone as well as manage all aspects of the class.
There are a number of virtual education spaces available for use. There are three that VIRLI recommends for educators based on a number of factors, including ease of use, accessibility, and cross-platform capability.
While different platforms (i.e. EngageVR, AltSpace, Hubs, etc.) have their own unique set of tools, they all share a core set of features. Each of these support public and private meetings in individual virtual classrooms, as well as the ability to interact with others and share content with a group.
This section covers a handful of commonly requested tools. VIRLI has tested these tools on the EngageVR, AltSpaceVR, and Hubs platforms.
One of the most popular features is the ability to share presentation materials. Teachers will be able to display slide decks (i.e. PowerPoint, Google Slides, Prezi, etc.), images, videos, websites, and even share their desktop. These materials can be displayed on one or more “screens” in the environment (e.g. PowerPoint on one screen, video on another).
If granted permission, students can also share material during activities such as group projects.
All these presentations can happen concurrently, or one at a time, and be viewable by everyone in the space.
Whiteboards and Drawing in 3D Space
Some platforms and environments (i.e. classroom, lecture hall, conference room, etc.) can allow teachers and students to draw/write to illustrate concepts or take notes. Whiteboards in the digital space can be used like real-life whiteboards. Some features also allow users to draw in 3D space to create engaging 3D models that others can walk around to see from different angles (a great tool for students who have issues visualizing 2D illustrations).
Access to whiteboards and the ability to draw can be controlled by the teacher.
Another unique feature of these platforms is the ability for teachers to import 3D models, animations, and audio (a.k.a. “assets”) that can be incorporated into their lessons.
The library of assets already available in these platforms contain models such as biological structures and historical artifacts, animations such as muscle movement and weather patterns, and audio such as animal sounds and instruments. For assets that are not immediately available, there are a multitude of free libraries such as SketchFab and TurboSquid. For even more sophisticated needs, VIRLI and GLRL has a talented development team to create exactly what the teacher needs.
The combination of these assets can be used to create immersive experiences that cannot be achieved through any other platform.
In addition to 3D assets, some platforms have interactive activities that teachers and students can do together. These activities include putting together a skeleton, controlling a Mars rover, and more. Game-like activities allow teachers and students to achieve the “hands-on” learning experience white being fully remote.
For specific activities not already included on these platforms, VIRLI and GLRL can work with teachers to create the exact experiences their lessons are looking for.
Some platforms will have built-in tools that allow teachers to create and manage their own quizzes and forms and deliver them to students inside of the virtual lessons. As students submit their answers, teachers can see a real-time analysis of the submissions and use that information to grade.
Not at all! Due to the hardware requirements of some platforms, it is understood that not every student will have access to the necessary equipment to run the software. It is critical that the lessons and information are still accessible through other methods.
One of these methods is live streaming lectures through websites such as YouTube, Vimeo, etc. By live streaming at the same time as using the immersive platforms, teachers will be able to teach through the widest variety of mediums (allowing a wider audience of students to participate) without having to duplicate effort.
Both the immersive platforms and the live streaming websites can allow students to see exactly what’s being taught (although some activities cannot be participated through the live stream) as well as ask questions to the teacher and their peers in real time. Some group activities can also be facilitated between the students in the platform and those watching the live stream.