The Immersive Learning Laboratory: employing virtual reality technology in teaching

Kiran Ijaz, Benjy Marks, Peter Gibbens, Jacqueline Thomas, Tom Hartley

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference proceeding contributionpeer-review

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Virtual reality (VR) technology has revolutionized educational opportunities by allowing people to experience and interact with diverse environments. Many environments in which professional engineers and scientists work are restricted from students due to safety and logistical constraints. Moreover, immersive technology can complement textbook based learning with visualization and immersion as an engaging medium. To transform the learning experience at The University of Sydney an innovative Immersive Learning Laboratory (ImmLL) was established under this project. The laboratory will enable academics to teach
using immersive content based on interactive 360° videos of real environments or constructed virtual realities.

The ImmLL is a new learning environment which pilots innovative teaching methods using VR to optimise the student learning experience and educational outcomes.

The project was split into four stages. In stage I, several of the current VR platforms were evaluated and tested in order to select the most suitable for teaching purposes. The laboratory space was also designed to maximize the learning and teaching experience. In stage II, a series of workshops were conducted to assist in training academics to develop their own learning material to use in the space. Stage III and IV are currently running with teaching sessions and an evaluation of learning experiences at the laboratory as of Semester 2 2017.

Technology testing was conducted with the two main brands of VR equipment; HTC Vive and Oculus Rift. Based on several criteria including user experience, quantity of content and the preference for seated experience, the Oculus Rift was selected as the preferred VR headset. The laboratory was fitted out for 26 Oculus Rift and high-performance computer units. Twenty academics from four different faculties were given training on the technology and content creation for 360° videos and virtual reality teaching. During Semester 2, the teaching and learning experiences will be evaluated. It is expected that positive and engaging learning outcomes will be found with some minor challenges around employing the new technology and user experience (motion sickness).

To our knowledge the ImmLL is the first laboratory of this scale for VR teaching in Australia. It is breaking new ground with an emerging technology and initial findings show promise in its ability to provide the highly engaging and motivating learning environment of the future.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the AAEE 2017 28th Annual Conference
Place of PublicationBarton
PublisherAustralasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE)
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes
EventAnnual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) (28th : 2017) - Sydney, Australia
Duration: 10 Dec 201713 Dec 2017
Conference number: 28th


ConferenceAnnual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education (AAEE 2017) (28th : 2017)
Abbreviated titleAAEE 2017

Bibliographical note

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