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Crossing the Boundaries: Virtual Reality Gains Momentum in the Classroom

Niraj Chaudhary, Associate University LibrarianMay 8, 2019

As part of University Libraries Digital Initiatives, the Cube, a digital makerspace, was launched in July 2017 at the Stockton Campus Library as a pilot with the purpose of providing educational technology and professional support to academic programs.

The Cube provides access to an array of 3D technologies, including Virtual Reality (VR) head-mounted displays (HMDs), VR-capable computers, 3D modeling software, 360º cameras, 3D printers and 3D scanners. In the Cube, students work on curriculum integrated projects, incorporating virtual reality, 3-D printing, and drones.
With an increase in demand to use the Cube space and services from both faculty and students, the Stockton Campus Library added another physical space for the Cube in spring 2018. Student employees were hired to assist with the Cube projects. 7,775 visitors entered the Cube during its first year. Initial funding for technology in the Cube came from the University Libraries and was later supported through TEC grants (fall 2017 - $13,400 and fall 2018 - $4,500) and some donor contributions.

Historical reconstructions, immersive storytelling, virtual tours, visualization, gaming, and architecture renderings are just some of the examples of how Virtual Reality has been used to enhance learning experiences at Pacific. To date, staff in the Cube have worked with over a dozen faculty from various disciplines to integrate Virtual Reality in the classroom by providing technology expertise, equipment, space for content development, and pedagogical support. At the bottom of this article you can find brief descriptions of the some of the innovative ways faculty have incorporated VR into their courses.

Student surveys have been conducted in two courses utilizing VR, and the responses are overwhelmingly positive (results can be found here). Students welcome the addition of VR as a teaching aid and are requesting to use in subsequent courses at Pacific.

In January 2019, the University Libraries launched the Innovative Projects (IP) Studio to expand the capacity of the Cube. In addition to the Cube, the IP Studio will include 360-studio, learning lab, project room, digital wall, and digital lounge - all of which will be located in the Innovation Commons (first floor of the library) and expected to open in August 2019.
Questions and requests for meeting may be directed to Niraj Chaudhary at nchaudhary@pacific.edu

VR in Pacific Courses:

Introduction to Spanish for the Pharmacy Professional (PHS)
Virtual Reality used for simulation and training

  • Working with faculty from Pharmacy, we are currently developing a Pharmacy Spanish VR application for classroom instruction. This teaching application will simulate real-world pharmacy scenarios with Spanish-speaking patients to both improve students' Pharmacy-specific Spanish and Spanish language diagnostic skills.

Human Anatomy (Dugoni)
Virtual Reality used for health care visualization

  • A free third-party VR Anatomy application was used to visualize and identify structures during student lab sessions. The first experience was to visualize the heart along with valve activity and blood flow. The following lab period it was used to survey the biliary tree (liver, gallbladder and pancreas).

Building Information Modeling (SOECS)
Virtual Reality used for architectural renderings

  • Students in the Building Information Modeling (BIM) course designed and modeled one-story buildings to house the Pacific Garden Program. Students along with the Cube staff then converted the 3D architectural models into Virtual Reality accessible models. The Virtual Reality models were then setup and used during final presentation, which allowed audiences to virtually walk through the building.

PACS 2 (GE)
Virtual Reality used to create 360 video blogs

  • Students brought 360 cameras to the historic town of Locke in San Joaquin Delta to create immersive reality films as part of their "Letter from Locke" project where they inhabit the character of a Chinese immigrant to California in the early 20th century.

United States History (COP)
Virtual Reality for historical reconstruction

  • As our collection of student-created VR content grows, Professors are having their students come to the Cube to assess the quality and educational efficacy of these projects. Professor assigned written evaluations of the Hetch-Hetchy project, Little Manila Recreated, and others to her students in History 21.

Digital Narratives (COP)
Virtual Reality used for historical narrative-based tours

  • Final projects in this course use AR/VR approaches to narrativizing historical content. One of the projects includes an Augmented Reality tour of old town Sacramento and explores the history of its development.

Media X Practicum (COP)
Virtual Reality used for immersive storytelling

  • Media X courses and projects have also worked with the Cube team to produce and/or conceptualize a variety of projects including a Virtual Reality Museum on John Muir's inventions, an empathetic representation of a deaf person's experiences in public, and an immersive music video.

Computer Science - multiple courses (SOECS)
Virtual Reality used for game development

  • Students in two computer science class used the Cube resources to create Virtual Reality content including video games. The Cube provided dedicated content development space during afterhours and weekends, equipment, and technical support during campus wide presentations of those projects.

PACS 1 (GE)
Virtual Reality used for virtual tours

  • Students in Pacific Seminar 1 sections had the opportunity to climb the steps of the Parthenon and view the massive golden statue dedicated to the goddess Athena. The purpose of this Virtual Reality tour was to learn about Athens and build excitement for "The Athens Game" as part of implementing "Reacting to the Past" (RttP) as a pilot for 17 sections of PACS1 this fall.

Colonialism in Latin America (COP)
Virtual Reality used for historical visualization

  • A student project used a gaming software to create a virtual reality visualization of an Aztec home within a temple complex. This is an example of final project options that some faculty have started giving their students in place of traditional projects.

Media Literacies (COP)
Virtual Reality used for introducing students to new forms of media presentation

  • Students visited the Cube to experience 360 films such as music videos and content created by Pacific students. Students engaged in creating their own content using VR 3D drawing application, which was then saved and submitted as an assignment.

Engineering Management Senior Design
Virtual Reality used for architectural rendering

  • As part of their senior design project, students are converting their architectural models to Virtual Reality for demonstration during the engineering school senior project day.

Introduction Game Design (COP)
Virtual Reality used for game prototype

  • Student group final projects use Virtual Reality to create a story line-based first-person game. Using the MDA Mechanics-Dynamics-Aesthetics framework, this project applies best design principles to an experiential puzzle.

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