For disciplines that require students to complete fieldwork, virtual opportunities supplement and enhance, but usually don’t replace, existing ‘real world’ learning (Selby and Davis 2014). The fieldwork opportunities offered by universities are a strongly marketable aspect of a course. Coupled with rising student fees, there is pressure to maximise fieldtrips with formative opportunities to prepare students and consolidate their learning. Frequently ‘virtual fieldtrips’ are interactive ebooks, missing the truly immersive experience (and resultant engagement) of the original visit.
A new browser- and app-based form of software, Thinglink, bridges the gap between high-end VR experience and handheld accessibility. Resources can be viewed in 360° via a browser giving a more interactive, if not completely immersive, experience or in full VR using an app and headset. This software also allows for ease of development since teaching staff need only an account and access to 360° image capture.
Rebelo and Pinho (2004) list three principles that must be followed for a piece of software to be considered VR:
Thinglink hits all of these and more with the ability to create developing worlds, ala google street view, that contain interactive data created by both the instructor and the learners. Usually it takes months of training to develop a virtual world but Thinglink allows this to be done in a short space of time by users with no previous experience. The presentation will include a demonstration of Thinglink for creating 360 and/or VR environments for students.
Our team works with a university-wide network of ‘early adopters’, but we will show how the affordances of a user-friendly interface opens up dialogues with other academic staff. We will outline an ‘innovation pipeline’ process, examining how a number of similar tools, pedagogies (exploration and collaborative learning) and local grassroots initiatives (within Faculties) can be supported to provide strategic change in delivery of online learning (Gunn 2016). The result is expected to be a blend of the two processes described by Gilly Salmon (2005) as “large-scale centralization” and “more incremental…choice of easy-to-use technologies and investment in personal and departmental learning and development.”
Gun, C. 2010. Sustainability factors for e-learning initiatives. ALT-J Research in Learning Technology (18), 2010. Retrieved May 2017 from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09687769.2010.492848
NMC Horizon Report: 2016 Higher Education Edition. Retrieved May 2017 from http://cdn.nmc.org/media/2016-nmc-horizon-report-he-EN.pdf
Rebelo, IB and Pinho, MS, 2004. Interaction in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality, p.109.
Salmon, G. 2005. Flying not flapping: a strategic framework for e-learning and pedagogical innovation in higher education institutions. Research in Learning Technology (13) 3, pp. 201-218.
Selby, K., and Davis, S. 2014. Virtual Fieldwork A case study from Spurn Point, Humberside. Retrieved May 2017 from https://vle.york.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/institution/E-Learning%20Development%20Team/Internal/Evaluation/Case%20Studies/caseStudyPages/pdf/CaseStudy_Long_VirtualFieldwork.pdf