Swansea University hosts virtual reality teaching conference

Swansea University recently hosted a conference that explored the ways virtual and augmented reality can enhance teaching and learning in higher education.

The event took place at the university’s Bay Campus last week. It attracted specialists such as Danaë Stanton Fraser, professor in human-computer interaction at the University of Bath, and Astrid Ensslin, professor in digital humanities and game studies with the University of Alberta.

In recent times, Swansea University has taken a number of steps to integrate virtual reality into its teaching. This includes the development of an anatomy app.

A collaborative project between the College of Engineering and Sport and Exercise Sciences, the app allows students to engage with anatomy material and assemble a skeleton in a VR environment.

More than 100 delegates from across Swansea University, other higher education institutions and the virtual reality industry attended the event.

Meanwhile, those who couldn’t attend the conference in person could be present virtually through social VR platform Sansar. With their own avatars, these people were able to attend presentations, view posters and interactive demonstrations, and network with physical attendees.

Rhian Kerton, associate professor at Swansea University’s College of Engineering, believes that the rise of VR and AR technologies will transform the education setting.

“At Swansea University we are committed to pushing the boundaries of innovation in learning and teaching in order to offer the best student experience,” she said.

“Virtual and Augmented Reality offer real opportunities to go beyond traditional classroom learning. VR and AR certainly look impressive, but we are not introducing these new technologies into our learning provision simply to look good. All of our work is evidence-informed and needs to demonstrate real, positive impact.”

Dr Marc Holmes, virtual reality research officer at Swansea University, also helped to organise the event. He said: “With virtual reality, we can teach faster, create in seconds, show the impossible or empathise – and that’s only the beginning.”