Monday, 13 March 2017

ELI 2017 - Virtual Reality and More

This year I attended and presented at the international (US Based) annual 2017 ELI conference. A jam packed learning technologies event, which I would describe as the US equivalent to the annual ALT conference. On the final day of the event the NMC Horizon Report is launched, which outlines emerging technology trends which are likely to impact teaching and learning. This year responses from the ELI 2017 Key Issues is Learning Technology report was also announced.

Trying out Snapchat Spectacles
Amongst the highlights of the event included a VR playground, which showcased a variety of uses of VR in education as well as demonstrations of technologies that are enabling VR. Amongst the technologies included the exclusive Snapchat spectacles, which until more recently could only be purchased via the snapbot (essentially a ‘pop up’ vending machine), see how surgeons are using them to take pictures during live surgery. I was also able to try out the Microsoft HoloLens, see how Case Western Reserve, Cleveland Clinic have been using HoloLens to interact with 3D models.

This poster presentation from Washington and Lee University and Davidson nicely summarises workflows for creating VR experiences.

My own presentation focused on: Designing Virtual Reality Experiences in Education. The presentation focused on the pedagogy underpinning VR in education and outlined a number of ways that VR is being used at the University of Sheffield and the off-the shelf technologies that can be used to create these experiences. A lot of the VR examples that I saw throughout the conference focused on using out of the box VR experiences (such as Google Expeditions) or high end solutions that take time to create and can only be viewed with expensive headsets. Instead, I focused on how creating bespoke, simple VR experiences that can be created with a 360 device combined with online editing software and Google cardboard (to view the experience). The presentation highlighted how VR can be achieveable option, whilst considering the limitation of these simpler expereiences. You can take a look at my presentation slides below:

ELI has many networking opportunities and it was interesting to hear about the similarities and differences between approaches and priorities in the US and UK. As with in the UK, many institutions have been reviewing their VLE (or LMS as it is referred to in the US). I noted that Sakai was a lot more popular in the US than it has ever been here and that a number of institutions appear to recently have made transitions to Canvas and Desire2Learn.

Some other session I found useful looked at:

There was also a showcase of different Learning Space equipment, which was available throughout the conference in one of the seminar rooms. This gave delegates the opportunity to try out different equipment during the sessions that were being delivered in the room. I also learnt about the learning space rating system, a tool developed by leading community experts for rating formal learning spaces to determine how well their design affords and encourages active learning.

This year the conference bought back their game which was designed to be played alongside the conference, using Goosechase, which was used last year and inspired our use of it during TELFest 2016.  The game involved delegates being set a number of challenges to complete, these challenges varied and encouraged you to network, reflect on sessions attended and the conference themes. A real time leaderboard told us how many points we had scored and our rank, the top 7 were awarded a prize. Whilst many appeared to complete activities, there didn’t seem to be as many highly active participants as the previous year. For me, the novelty had worn off, this could have been because many of the activities were the same as last year, so I didn’t have to think so much when answering questions. Last year I came 2nd and put a lot of effort in making that happen, this year I came 7th and put a lot less effort, but was still one of the top 7 winners. This year we won’t be using Goosechase at TELFest, but we will have another exciting game running alongside the event.

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