Attended my first ever event in VR on Saturday evening, listening to Steve Bambury discuss his views on VR in education.
The Engage platform used for the session was reasonable intuitive to use with a limited set of controls to get used to. You can easily wander around within the presentation environment or can make use of the ability to teleport as you can in lots of VR apps. Engage also comes with a short tutorial, which I made use of, to help you get used to how things work.
Within the platform the event organiser has the ability to display slides which in the event I attended were displayed on a big screen towards the back of the environment. The organiser can also mute or unmute attendees which is useful in avoiding audio issues and in particular audio feedback.
Through their controllers attendees are easily able to make use of common hand gestures including raising a hand to ask a question, waving and pointing at objects or people as needed. You can also bring up a virtual tablet device which allows you to capture photos from the session, or even a selfie or two, as well as take notes and access your settings.
For me one of the key takeaways from the session was the ability to collaborate across distance. In this case Steve was in the UAE while I was in the UK. Am not sure where some of the other attendees were from however I suspect some US attendees may have been present. Clearly VR allows people to discuss or work collaboratively independent of distance although time zone would need to be considered. Another advantage I can see was the openness of the environment which to me would facilitate students exploring locations, ideas and concepts with a degree to freedom which is not easily replicable in the real world.
It should also be noted that VR allows you to replay previous events, such as being able to step back into the presentation at a later date, viewing it from a different perspective or just revisiting or revising the content. This might be useful in terms of reviewing a session, its successes and challenges, prior to identifying next steps or areas for improvement. Additionally, just prior to the session, I explored some of the pre-prepared content which comes with Engage, such as a David Attenborough presentation focussing on Dinosaurs. There appeared to be lots of content to view being a mix of proper VR experiences and 360 degree videos. I expect with a bit more time I will explore some of this content.
Overall I enjoyed the experience and can see how it might be useful for CPD and for collaborative activities with students. I think my next step will be to play with creating my own event and how this would work, with a particular focus on how students might interact and work together within a Engage environment.