A virtual reality learning laboratory for diverse environments


Awarded an Education Innovation Grant to the value of $34, 990.


Project Description

Virtual reality (VR) technology has revolutionized education opportunities by allowing people to experience and interact with diverse environments. Many environments in which professional engineers and scientists work are restricted to students, due to safety and logistical constraints. To transform the learning experience at The University of Sydney an innovative Immersive Learning Laboratory (ILL) will be established under this project. The laboratory will enable academics to teach using the immersive content based on interactive 360° videos of real environments or constructed virtual realities. The latest Oculus Rift technology platform will be invested with 20 - 24 units available for tutorial sized groups, from Semester 2 2017. A technical research assistant will be employed to train and assist academics in content development and delivery. The pilot program will utilise 26 individual courses taught by 21 academics from five schools in the Faculty of Engineering and IT (FEIT), two schools in the Faculty of Science and one school in the Faculty of Law. During the project an estimated 1350 students will experience the highly interactive and explorative environments of the Immersive Learning Laboratory. This is a sustainable initiative, as both FEIT and ICT are supporting the hardware set-up costs.


The Team

PROJECT LEADER
Dr Jacqueline Thomas
PROJECT LEADER
A/Prof Peter Gibbens
Dr
Benjy Marks

Kiran Ijaz (technical assistant)


2017 Project Updates

APRIL

To date a laboratory space has been secured in the PNR with the assistance of FEIT. Extensive testing of the headset technology has been undertaken to ensure that Oculus Rift is the right choice. Working partnerships have been established with CIS and ICT the University.

Procurement
Hardware: 10 unit of Oculus Rift have arrived and we are anticipating the computer hardware to support it to arrive in the next week or two.
Software: On going testing of the different software platforms to support immersive teaching is continuing, in order to invest in the best choice.

Training
Workshops for academics are being developed for the end of Semester 1 (commencing week 10) to enable them to develop content for their Semester 2 teaching.

Project is on track for delivery of innovative teaching in Semester 2.

MAY

In May 2017, rigorous testing of different software platforms to support immersive teaching was performed. Also, a list of available educational 360 videos and virtual reality applications was prepared. Workshops content and material for VR training purposes was prepared. The lab space was prepared to conduct trainings with academics on 12 VR-Ready computers and virtual reality equipment. Training software were installed and tested. CIS and ICT requests were made to access required software and to make space ready for the training sessions with academics.

Procurement
Hardware: 10 more VR ready computers were delivered to the Immersive Learning Lab to support further testing and training purposes.
Software: The selected soft wares with teaching and training potential were investigated and installed. For instance, Adobe Creative Suit for 360 video editing and VR Apps for VR content generation/modelling for teaching.
CIS Request: Service requests were made to purchase non-rolling high back supporting chairs, three height adjustable desks (for disability access) and signage for the lab fit out.

Training
Workshops material was developed and finalized to train academics to deliver Semester 2 teaching. Immersive Learning Lab space is ready to conduct these training as per schedule in Week 12 onwards.

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JUNE

In June 2017, 12 virtual reality desks were made ready to conduct trainings with academics. Workshops content and a lab user guide was prepared. 14 academics participated in three workshops. CIS service requests were made to prepare lab to commence teaching in Semester 2. Project team worked with CIS to decide signage according to University of Sydney's branding guidelines. ICT and project team met to discuss various matters to prepare lab for Semester 2 teaching. ICT requests were made to secure VR hardware and provide support to commence trainings in Immersive Learning Lab.

Procurement
Hardware: Rotating chairs were delivered to the lab and chair foot caps were installed through CIS to make them non-rolling. Requests for final computer and Oculus rift hardware made.
ICT Request: ICT support was requested to secure machines and provide guidelines to install licensed soft wares.

Training
In week 12 onwards, three training workshops were conducted. First orientation workshop was compulsory to attend by all academics who would conduct tutorials in Immersive Learning Lab in Semester 2. VR requirements for individual Unit of study were discussed and guidelines were provided to develop the VR content. Also, existing VR content was suggested to explore by the ILL’s team. Based on the first training workshop and Unit of study requirements, academics registered in related session of the next two workshops that discussed 360 video development/editing and VR content development.