Brianna Mutsindashyaka ’22 (left) and another student's avatar in a virtual reality version of the Ithaca College campus.
Students learn to incorporate virtual reality into their future classrooms.
Assistant professor of Education Christine Havens-Hafer’s students are immersing themselves into virtual reality (VR), creating lesson plans designed to help their hypothetical students create deeper and more authentic connections to concepts and spaces.
For example, a pair of students used a virtual environment for a science lesson on predatory animals. Using Oculus Quest headsets, students are taken on a guided tour of the landscape with stops along the way to discuss facts about the animals. They also have an opportunity to answer and ask questions within the VR environment.
Another pair of students used the free VR experience, Anne Frank House, to bring their class to the secret annex where Anne Frank and her family hid. With the headsets, students can physically move through the space while reading information about what each room was used for, who stayed in the room, and how the family navigated dangerous intrusions from the outside world.
Brianna Mutsindashyaka ’22 and Catherine Fiore ’21, student support staff in IC's Teaching and Learning with Technology program, put together this demo on using virtual reality in instruction.
“More and more school districts are investing in technology, particularly with the need for remote instruction,” said Havens-Hafer. “VR labs can differentiate instruction for a variety of learners. Learning how to incorporate VR into their future classrooms is valuable training for my students in an area that will continue to grow — and it will make them more marketable in the education field.”
Havens-Hafer credits IC Immersive with sourcing enough Oculus Quest headsets to allow each of her students to have this experience. Becky Lane, digital media coordinator of the Teaching and Learning with Technology program, first suggested using the headsets to Havens-Hafer. Lane’s student support staff, Catherine Fiore ’21 and Brianna Mutsindashyaka ’22, guide the students in using the technology to create new worlds and tap into interactive experiences.
“Social VR is a really compelling environment for learning, especially in this time of remote learning. It’s not only a medium that takes you to places you’ve not seen, but a space where you can connect in ways that are difficult, if not impossible, during social distancing.”
Becky Lane, digital media coordinator of the Teaching and Learning with Technology program
“Social VR is a really compelling environment for learning, especially in this time of remote learning,” said Lane. “It’s not only a medium that takes you to places you’ve not seen, but a space where you can connect in ways that are difficult, if not impossible, during social distancing. A person can interact with others in an embodied space and feel a connection that you can’t get in a 2D environment.”
Havens-Hafer’s own virtual classroom is a perfect example for how using VR can help students feel connected in an online course. A simulation of the Ithaca College campus goes a long way toward making the class feel more like a community.
Students explore a virtual simulation of Henry David Thoreau's cabin at Walden Pond.
The experiences Havens-Hafer, Lane, Fiore, and Mutsindashyaka are creating with students are new and compelling. In fact, the four educators recently presented at the Learning Research Network 2020 Conference, sharing their ideas with other leaders in the field.
“Because of the rich collaboration I have with Becky Lane and her team, I have been able to thoughtfully address technology in the classroom and teach my students how to make this a part of their future classrooms,” said Havens-Hafer.