By Aaron Bergeson, Faculty Developer/Instructional Designer
With the release of HTC’s Vive and the Oculus Rift headsets earlier this year, and the PlayStation VR system announced to release Thursday, October 13, 2016, this year has been dubbed the year of virtual reality. Through these futuristic visors, users and gamers can transform their living rooms into new worlds of discovery and adventure, but the applications far surpass in-home entertainment.
Winter Park Campus Professor of Humanities Elizabeth Faulcon is one of the early adopters of implementing virtual reality in the classroom at the College. A growing number of Valencia instructors are starting to use this concept to take their students to new places without leaving the classroom. In the age of mobile learning, students can use their smartphones to simulate a virtual reality experience when used in conjunction with a Google Cardboard viewer, which is considerably less expensive than the aforementioned systems, at a doable $8 to $15 a unit.
Through the Active Learning track at Destination 2016, Elizabeth was able to create lessons for her 20th Century Humanities, Intro to Humanities, and Greek and Roman Humanities courses. During this summer experience, she designed a lesson to have students virtually enter Salvador Dali’s Archaeological Reminiscence of Millet’s Angelus in a 360-degree video. The students view the painting as they virtually travel through it and can swivel to explore and become immersed in the experience.
Elizabeth says that virtual reality is also a great way to introduce the philosophical discussion on Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, exploring the concept of reality.
“Students love getting into the conversation through this immersive approach,” she explained. “Even the shyest, introverted student will get animated with this.”
In addition to the Google Cardboard activities, Elizabeth has further leveraged gamification in her classes by making the activities achievement-based.
Gamification of education is the idea that students learn when they are having fun, but they are also learning in the same way they play — by socializing, competing and achieving. One challenge she noticed was that some of her students were struggling with understanding the cultural concepts behind various themes throughout her courses. Through her partnership at the Winter Park Center for Teaching/Learning Innovation, Elizabeth was able to design badges that can be released in the online component of her course when the student has accomplished the outcome of a unit in the course. Elizabeth stated, “Badges are a great way for students to recognize their own self-mastery of concepts and skills achieved in the class.”
When asked about her desire for innovative teaching practices, she reflected on the services provided to faculty, crediting the Centers for Teaching/Learning Innovation that have partnered with her in challenging her own way of teaching. She compares these resources to a luxury afforded to Valencia instructors.
“I think we’ve been given a Ferrari, and we just need to learn to drive it,” she said.