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[Spring Workshop 2021] Have Shared Virtual Spaces Become More Usable For Everyday Educational Purposes?

11:10 – 12:00 pm Wednesday May 26, 2021

Graham Rodwell

Dr Graham Rodwell has been involved with the development, use and application of educational technologies for over 25 years. This work included one of the first projects to deliver post secondary classes online in BC, as well as the development of a virtual social space which students entered by floating down through flowers. In the last decade, he has returned to teaching as an instructor at Douglas College.

Session Description

This presentation will visit several shared virtual spaces, in both 2d and 3d, where we have been running and evaluating a series of educational events. The focus of the evaluation is on the usability of these applications, and types of spaces, for a range of educational activities. Preliminary findings will be discussed as well as the potential for establishing a network of interested users.

Social Worlds, such as Second Life, have been used effectively for educational purposes for many years. More recently, educational events from classes to conferences have been run using SocialVR applications. As successful as these have been, they often still need some specialized equipment, and require additional software to be installed, creating support needs and potential hurdles for novice users. A smaller group of applications have emerged, however, that run in a browser such as Chrome or Firefox, on standard laptops, and provide similar functionality. Participants are sent an invitation link to join an event. The users enter as avatars and move around a designed space using spatialized audio, and sometimes video and chat, to communicate with each other while interacting with shared objects. In the first stage of this project we have focused on Gather.town, a 2D application, and Mozilla Hubs, a ‘3D’ application. Both applications come with their own free editor that allows virtual spaces to be designed and repurposed. We have run an international workshop, involving students from Europe, a student research poster session, a multimedia gallery, a virtual field trip, team based activities and virtual office hours, among other events. Initial data suggests that usability is now at a similar level as standard video conferencing and may provide a realistic option for many activities.

Recording and Materials