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The Potential of VR for UK Higher Education
Issues and Recommendations
Virtual environments as part of the educational process
We need to prove the pedagogic value and soundness of using virtual environments as part of the educational process. This can be achieved through examples of successful and beneficial use (and also examples of unsuccessful use) and by reviewing how they are used in other contexts.
Demonstrate the value of virtual environments and make it clear where they can be used effectively by:
- producing case studies;
- providing application-oriented examples;
- reviewing industrial applications;
- reviewing international work;
- reviewing related technologies (e.g. games)
Good practice in the use of virtual environments
We need to establish good practice guidelines in all aspects of the use of virtual environments in an educational context and to understand how this complements other techniques.
Develop guidelines on good practice including:
- integrating virtual environments with applications;
- usability issues;
- ethical issues;
- cultural issues;
- legal issues (IPR, copyright, etc.);
- health and safety issues.
Provision of information about virtual environment systems
We need to provide information about current virtual environment technology and systems and associated tools to help users implement solutions appropriate to their needs.
Organise reviews and disseminate the information on:
- hardware and software virtual environment technology and systems for use in an educational context;
- tools for building models and authoring virtual environments;
- public domain and commercial model libraries and databases.
Access to virtual environment systems
We need to ensure that virtual environment technology is available to users at affordable prices. This is central to its widespread adoption.
Ensure access is available to virtual environment systems by:
- obtaining CHEST prices now for the most widely used systems;
- getting CHEST licensing agreements for the best systems following evaluation;
- advocating purchase of appropriate commercial model libraries.
Providing support for users and developers
To ensure that the introduction of virtual environment techniques into teaching is soundly based, we need to provide access to training resources and technical support for users and developers of virtual environment systems within the community and encourage the exchange and sharing of common resources such as software and models.
Provide support for users and developers by:
- making training materials available for appropriate virtual environment systems;
- making technical information and support available;
- encouraging sharing of resources within the community.
Exchange of ideas on teaching issues
We need to encourage an exchange of ideas on issues related to both the use in teaching and the teaching of use of virtual environments throughout the curriculum.
Set up a means for people to exchange ideas on the use of virtual environments as a teaching aid across the curriculum.
Set up a means for people to exchange ideas on the teaching of virtual environment techniques as an aspect of the curriculum.
We need to participate in standards development with a view to establishing de facto and de jure standards in this area. These are needed to ensure that virtual environment systems can interwork, that the results of developments on one system can be moved to others and that libraries of commonly used components can be established within the community. This is particularly important given the cost of developing virtual environment solutions and the consequent need to reuse models, software and courseware.
Ensure the community is adequately briefed on standards.
Participate as a community in the development of relevant standards such as VRML.
Links within the community
We need to ensure that the JTAP Focused Club in Virtual Environments is established and provides an effective way of bringing people together and disseminating good practice. We need to encourage links between existing initiatives and programmes (e.g. AGOCG, eLib, TLTP, CTI) to promote the effective use of virtual environments and the exchange of good practice.
Liaise with JTAP Programme Manager to ensure that the JTAP Focused Club in Virtual Environments is set up and involves a wider community than JTAP projects to maximise its value.
Ensure that the JTAP Focused Club provides a useful and effective channel for dissemination.
Promote the results of this Workshop to existing initiatives and programmes.
Encourage people working on related projects to share good practice.
Links with industry
We need to maintain close links with the UK virtual environment supplier industry to ensure that we benefit from its dominant global position and also help it to maintain that position.
Be proactive in stimulating links with the UK virtual environment supplier industry through:
- software acquisition;
- joint development of case studies;
- collaboration on joint projects;
- encouraging their participation in community activities.
Encouraging further research
We need to encourage further research in virtual environments including research into human factors (physiological and psychological) to improve the design of future systems and better exploit existing systems, and research into the impact of virtual environment methods on the way organisations operate. Much of this work is multi-disciplinary in nature which can lead to difficulties in funding. A Community Club in this area is needed.
Promote the results of this Workshop to the Research Councils.
Encourage setting up a Community Club activity in Virtual Reality and Virtual Environments.