V-SENSE team leads learning project to improve the virtual classroom experience

Posted on: 01 March 2021

Researchers from Trinity are undertaking an immersive learning project to improve the “virtual classroom” experience that was becoming more common for many students in higher education – even before COVID-19 enforced major changes to teaching and learning.

The researchers are from V-SENSE, a group from the School of Computer Science and Statistics, comprising 20+ individuals exploring Visual Computing at the intersection of Computer Vision, Computer Graphics, and Media Signal Processing.

In this project, V-SENSE is currently building on previous work by exploring emergent learning practices and demonstrating workflows that create unique, virtual learning environments (VLEs) for modern social virtual reality platforms.

Increasingly, online digital platforms are becoming meeting places for students and teachers to discuss and collaborate on a diverse range of academic subjects and practices. Moreover, in response to the recent global COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a heightened focus on providing readily accessible educational resources that harness traditional virtual learning environments and more socially orientated platforms.

The emergence of social virtual reality software presents higher education institutes with innovative and alternative modalities for engaging with students and teaching materials in general.

In particular, these types of virtual realities can help facilitate both telepresence and immersion, allowing students and teachers to feel as if they are present in a classroom and supporting the perception of being present in this non-physical world with others.

These factors allow the learner to see, hear and potentially feel the virtual classroom experience in remote learning contexts.

Gareth Young, Research Fellow in Computer Science and V-SENSE researcher, said:

“Moving traditional teaching materials online is an understated and often difficult task that requires training and expertise to deliver not only effective lesson plans but to guarantee the enhanced student experiences of being part of a higher education establishment. Our research illustrates these factors’ precise role in providing educational content for more embodied learning practices. 

“In the context of higher education, research, and creativity, we hope to gain direction from the reports of experts and learners alike on the impact of the new “virtual classroom”; with particular focus on the accessibility of educational materials, the embodiment and presence of the student within the virtual learning environment, and the influences of immersion and presence on the overall university experience. 

“We hope that our findings will offer researchers and educators insight into student-teacher experiences with novel technologies in socio-constructive exercises that can transition seamlessly between online, offline, and immersive contexts for higher education learning.”

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Thomas Deane, Media Relations Officer | deaneth@tcd.ie | +353 1 896 4685