Sunday, November 5, 2017

Derelict Campuses In Virtual Reality

Drop Box
Before getting too excited about virtual reality (VR) for education, read Patrick Hogan's "We took a tour of the abandoned college campuses of Second Life" (13 August 2015). In this he looks at virtual campuses set up with much fanfare and then left abandoned when they were found to not be popular, or useful. These have the feel of the real empty schools in the documentary "Abandoned: St Louis Schools".

These educational institutions tried to emulate a real campus in the virtual world, which I think is missing the point. VR should be used to overcome the limitations in face-to-face education, not reproduce those limitations (and introduce more of its own).

On real campuses, education is becoming virtual. Creating VR representations of obsolete physical campus facilities will just confuse students. As an example, reproducing a library card index (which some VR environments have done) makes no sense, as most students have never seen, let alone used, a real card index.

When I was an on-line student in North America, a couple of years ago, the instructor told my class to submit our assignments in the "drop box".  So I looked on the course web page for a link to the Dropbox file hosting service, but there was none. It turned out the instructor was using the term "drop box" generically and we were using the Moodle assignment module. My confusion was in part because the term "drop box" is not used in Australia, but also because it had been a decade since I had to put a printed-on-paper assignment in a physical box. In a VR environment having a box with a slot in the top would be even more confusing for a student who has never seen such a box.

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