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Building ACM-wide Partnerships for Developing Virtual/Augmented-Reality Tools for Pedagogy

The proposed two-day workshop at Grinnell College forges, within the Associated College of the Midwest (ACM), a community of faculty blending immersive technologies with liberal-arts classrooms. Immersive technologies such as virtual- and augmented-reality (VR/AR/3D) offer innovative frameworks for pedagogy, and the ACM could become a collaborative hub for tapping into this promising potential.

So far, faculty at individual ACM schools have spearheaded efforts to blend immersive technology into the liberal-arts classroom. Creativity and interdisciplinarity aspirations far outstrip the available support for pioneering professors ready to implement these technologies. Challenges include both developing technical skills but also the need for inclusive, ethical principles of representation.

Cross-institutional community could help VR/AR/3D-inspired instructors effect more sustained, farther-reaching change in the higher-education landscape. The entire ACM community would benefit from sharing resources on this immersive-technology front.

The workshop would feature faculty and staff presentations, a keynote address from a leading scholar using immersive technology for humanities teaching, and the founding of an ACM-wide wiki.This wiki would serve as a space for reporting updates on projects, open-source sharing of software developments, discussing technical and ethical best-practices for VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula, and pooling assessment data for publication.


Primary activities 

Activities will include but not be limited to:

  1. a keynote address by Victoria Szabo, Associate Research Professor of Visual and Media Studies at Duke University;
  2. 2) presentations on current projects incorporating VR/AR/3D technology into classroom settings;
  3. brainstorming sessions in which faculty will share concrete plans for future VR/AR/3D applications to pedagogy, share project ideas that they would like to pursue but find currently out of reach, and describe currently untapped resources that they find at their disposal that may be useful to faculty at other ACM institutions;
  4. discussion moderated by Grinnell College’s Center for Teaching, Learning, & Assessment (CTLA) about standardizing assessment practices for evaluating VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula across ACM institutions;
  5. discussion about ethical portrayal and representation in AR/VR/3D technologies and
  6. establishment of a “wiki” website hosted by Grinnell College’s Immersive Experience Laboratory affording all ACM members interested in developing VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula a space within which to share project progress, to engage in online discussions, to share VR/AR/3D-related software resources developed for classroom usage, and to build a repository of assessment data for subsequent analysis and publication on efficacy of VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula.

The workshop will be held July 15-16 at the Grinnell College Golf Clubhouse. Catered breakfast will start at 8:30 am both days. Starting at 9:30, each morning will feature faculty presentations on their current projects, sharing progress with ongoing curricular development.  We will attempt to keep individual presentations brief at 10 minutes so as to maximize time for discussion, scheduling blocks of four 10-minute talks per hour with 20 minutes free to discuss.  Catered lunch will follow this morning session.

At 1:30 pm on the first day, we will have a 30-minute discussion moderated by Grinnell College’s Sarah Purcell on issues of ethical representation. Then at 2 pm, we will have the keynote address from Prof. Victoria Szabo. From 3:15 to 5:15, we will have more presentations in the same format as in the morning (i.e., four-10-minute presentations per hour) until dinner.

On the second day, starting at 1 pm, we will have a 30-minute discussion moderated by Grinnell College’s CTLA to focus on compiling input on learning goals and building plans for assessment. Then, we will start the afternoon sessions of faculty presentations at 1:30 pm. At 3:30 pm, we will have a discussion until dinner about future directions/challenges participants would like to work on and about next steps towards making VR/AR/3D-enhanced pedagogies a more sustaining, accessible part of liberal-arts curriculum.

Dissemination Strategies

This new community collaboration around VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula will give back to the ACM community more broadly and to the higher-education community at large. All ACM faculty will have edit access to the wiki website, allowing a sustaining commons for fostering communication and for newcomers not participating in the workshop but later interested in participating directly in ACM collaborations.

For dissemination to the higher-education community at large, the wiki will be open-access, and we envision three possible peer-reviewed publications. An initial peer-reviewed publication would pool any assessment data or post-course evaluation data that ACM faculty already have and are able to share.  A second peer-reviewed publication would pool all assessment data over the subsequent two years that ACM faculty could collect on VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula according to the Grinnell College CTLA-moderated discussion.

For the latter publication, Grinnell College CTLA could offer its own suite of assessment instruments for initial data collection. Assessment data would be available to all ACM users of the wiki.  A third publication could be a statement of ethical principles for representation in VR/AR/3D-enhanced curricula.  Each publication would include all faculty and staff members participating in the data collections as coauthors.

Outcomes and Significance

The primary but most intangible outcome of these project activities is better ACM-wide awareness of and communication among faculty and staff with common cause in bringing VR/AR/3D-enhanced pedagogies into the classroom. Intangibility would not undermine impact in the least, however, because the immediate challenge we seek to resolve is the relative isolation of the individual efforts in this direction.

Strengthening this like-minded community of faculty from different institutions and departments with a chance to meet and coordinate efforts would result in more sustained, more tangible momentum. Faculty will produce both spoken presentations but also, if they wish, poster presentations to stimulate further conversations, and without needing to warrant a specific time slot for poster sessions, the posters can be on display throughout the workshop space, allowing participants the freedom to browse posters and to attend the presentations they will find most relevant.

The presentations by individual faculty will be uploaded as the first installment on a “wiki” website that will ideally become a repository for further collaboration. Immediately following the workshop, we will also upload all plans for novel ideas and questions or brainstorming that the ACM-wide group of faculty members would like input or collaboration on, as well as a discussion board for conversations about ethics in VR/AR/3D technologies. This wiki will host information about existing or past projects including documentation of hardware specifications, shared copies of the software, as well as notes on learning goals and assessment outcomes.

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