Brock University Deploys Virtual Reality to Enhance Online Learning Experience
Virtual Reality to enhance Online Learning Experience

Brock University Deploys Virtual Reality to Enhance Online Learning Experience

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A Brock University Professor in the Department of English Language and Literature, Martin Danahay, is hosting one of his Winter Term courses in a 3D classroom using virtual reality tech.

The class, Writing for New Media, is a constituent of Danahay’s ongoing work for enhancing teaching practices using VR. He was awarded the Chancellor’s Chair for Teaching Excellence award in 2018 that provided him the funding to bring five students within a virtual class delivered through Oculus Quest headsets.

This year, the twenty students enrolled for the Writing for New Media course have headsets, and the class is conducted entirely in 3D spaces. A Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Partnership Engage grant awarded to Danahay and Tim Dun, Associate Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, helped procure the headsets and hire a local software company XpertVR.

XpertVR helped Danahay to develop a realistic classroom and avatars for students to speak and interact with their peers within the space.

“The students have really liked it,” said Danahay. “They preferred meeting in 3D to videoconferencing. They had a much stronger sense of connection to the people they were talking to, even though they were communicating through avatars.”

XpertVR created three different virtual reality settings for the class, including the surface of Mars, a boardroom, and a play space.

Maddy Kwan, a third-year Interactive Arts and Science student, is assisting Danahay as a research assistant to help students with the technical aspects of using VR.

“It’s very interesting to see how far the technology has come,” she said. “This is a glimpse of what the future could look like and how virtual reality can be used in a practical setting.”

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