A Practical Vision for Connecting Students' Education to Virtual Worlds

Concurrent Session 5
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

Giving students ownership of a virtual world provides opportunities for them to navigate a tangible and spatially oriented environment to their individual abstract educational landscapes. Discover a practical vision for making this idea a reality using modern web technology.



John Martin is a Band III UX Developer. He has been with Unicon for seven years. He specializes in implementing accessible user interfaces that are responsive and performant. John also excels at creating rich data visualizations using D3, Three.js, and other front-end technologies. He is well versed in AngularJS and React and enjoys building rich single page applications that solve big problems for clients. He has plenty of back-end knowledge to make integrations go fast and is also dabbling in AWS serverless technology. His other interests include Machine Learning, natural language processing, and graph databases. At Unicon, John has worked with publishers, social networks, and colleges. In most cases he develops custom solutions often leveraging a single page application approach. John led the UX development for the California Community Colleges Assess project. The project demanded WCAG 2.0 compliance and John delivered a smooth user experience for both students, faculty, administrators that was responsive, mobile friendly, and accessible. He now works with Facebook in delivering a socially oriented CMS for their Developer Circles community. This application is a single page progressive web application built using AWS serverless technologies. It too, is responsive and great on mobile devices with low bandwidth and connectivity. It was also built to scale to tens or hundreds of thousands of users. John has an appetite for professional development. He posts frequently on interesting side projects he works on and has presented to the company UX team as well as at Desert Code Camp several different times. John Martin loves teaching as much as he does learning. He worked previously as a Coordinator Sr. at Arizona State University managing the tutoring centers and a freshman transition program that housed and provided 9 credit hours for over 400 incoming freshmen students. Before that, he worked as a secondary advanced Mathematics instructor at Crested Butte Academy in Colorado. He also had experience as an assistant camp director and intermediate skateboarding coach for an extreme sports summer camp in California. John graduated with a B.S. in Secondary Education Mathematics from ASU and stayed to complete his M.S. in Discrete Mathematics with an emphasis in Abstract Algebra. He has begun the process of getting the AWS Developer certification.

Extended Abstract

Technology available today provides new opportunities in education. There is unprecedented access to desktop browsers, tablets, smart phones, and virtual reality headsets that all have the ability to view immersive 3D environments. Now, with the help of a few modern web frameworks, a 3D experience can be developed and delivered using web technology that reach all of these devices. This allows students to consume these experiences in traditional, online, or hybrid classes.

This marks the first time that a simple pathway exists for creating engaging 3D experiences that:

  1. Utilize web technologies for development and delivery

  2. Provide progressively enhanced experiences across all hardware

  3. Record student outcomes

  4. Provide dynamic content

Attendees should come away with the understanding that this technology is the most approachable it has ever been for institutions. They will see how simple cross-platform 3D experiences can be developed and delivered through their existing web platforms. They will be exposed to research that specifically addresses the efficacy of education through 3D experiences. Finally, they should leave with enough information to give them confidence in a decision to adopt or not adopt 3D technology in their institutions or learning applications. 

The session will begin with an interactive and live online survey. The audience will be able to view live results from the group as the survey completes. The survey will be composed of questions that intend to get a feel for how the audience perceives the effectiveness of 3D experiences in education as well as how they would rate the viability of using these experiences in their own settings.

Next, the audience will be given a tour of how 3D content can be viewed with progressive enhancements across a multitude of devices. Attendees will be encouraged to visit the web based content on their cell phones and laptops while the same experience is projected for the entire group. Then two volunteers will come forward to experience the same demo but on a VR headset that has 3 degrees of freedom, and then a VR headset that has 6 degrees of freedom.

The presentation moves on to a brief overview of the technology that makes generating these simple 3D experiences possible. It will show a live example of pulling down a 3D resource from the web and embedding it into a new web based activity. Here the goal is for the audience to see how approachable the experience is, even for hobbyist developers.

Next, A vision for a cross platform 3D learning and assessment system is shared. The audience will be taken through a high level explanation of how the system would be built and how this vision leverages research to give students a fun and effective way to learn. This vision will explain how 3D content embedded within online courses can be developed, delivered, and tied together across devices. 

The vision is expanded upon leveraging concepts like the “Memory Palace” techniques and wave function collapse to show where we could be headed and the implications for education. Illustrated examples will be provided.

Finally, the session wraps up with a reflection on the earlier survey to assess if the presentation has altered anyone’s views. A question and answer session concludes the event.