University of Sydney has announced the opening of Australia’s largest immersive laboratory in their Sydney Campus. This would help students receive on the field experience and help them journey into new territories to better understand their curricula. For example; an Astrophysics student could better understand their curricula by getting hands on visuals on outer space without leaving the campus premises.
The university officially launched the new Immersive Learning Laboratory, powered by the latest virtual reality technologies and the largest of its kind in Australia.
The Immersive Learning Laboratory is physically based in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies and is open to all disciplines. The lab was partially funded by the University of Sydney Strategic Education Grant, which aims to promote innovative and exciting educational practices. Additional funding was provided by the Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, and the University’s Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).
Most of the investment was used to purchase twenty-six high-powered PCs and Oculus Rift headsets – the largest number of devices housed in any Australian educational institution at present.
“Oculus Rift devices immerse users in interactive virtual reality environments by tracking their head movements to provide stereoscopic 3D imagery.” (VUDream)
At present, twelve academics from the university faculties are utilising the lab for their teaching, using VR and immersive content based on 360 degree videos of real environments and constructed virtual realities.
During the pilot program which was held in late 2017, more than seven hundred students experienced the highly interactive and explorative environments in the Immersive Learning Laboratory.
Some of the current teaching happening in the lab includes:
- 1. Humanitarian engineering – Students explore villages in Nigeria to learn how to apply their core engineering skills to complex humanitarian problems.
- 2. Marine biology – Students discover life under the sea by exploring 3D models of reefs in the Great Barrier Reef.
- 3. Astronomy – Students explore the solar system and night sky in a real-time simulation.
“One of the aims of our 2016-20 Strategic Plan is to introduce new, more interactive learning experiences to engage and challenge students and serve as a springboard for graduates’ ongoing learning and for their transition to competitive, fluid and challenging work environments,” – The Director of Educational Innovation at the University of Sydney, Professor Adam Bridgeman said to University of Sydney News
What do the students of University of Sydney have to say about the integration of immersive learning into their curriculum?
A Master of Digital Communication and Culture student believes her time in the lab has “sparked new ideas” about how the technology can be applied across different platforms.
“From design to human connection to storytelling and game play, the applications of VR are limitless. We can use VR to send people into new worlds and erode boundaries between time and space. These technological advancements can revolutionise education, the medical world and even the way people interact with their favourite celebrity.” – Student (Master of Digital Communication and Culture, University of Sydney) (University of Sydney News)
Students engaged with several different augmented and virtual applications designed specifically for the Oculus Rift:
- Bullet Train (an action simulation set inside a train station),
- Spaces (an extension of Facebook where friends can meet up in a virtual location), and
- Tilt Brush (Google’s Art application that allows users to design and create in immersive 3D).
Though VR technology is still in the early stages of inception, the University of Sydney has gotten their foot in the door with the Immersive Learning Technology in place, which moves away from traditional teaching and learning strategies in Universities.
Don’t miss the chance to hear from Peter Goodyear from University of Sydney, Professor of Education, Centre for Research on Learning & Innovation at the Future Teaching & Learning in Higher Education Conference, 20th & 21st March 2019 in Melbourne. Professor Goodyear will be sharing his insights on:
Placing an educational strategy in its place, examining:
- Challenges for senior managers and their teams in aligning education, digital and estates strategies
- Understanding how complex learning ecologies function
- Designing for learning