Project Mobius and Multi-User VR Teaching
As virtual reality (VR) technology matures, becoming more advanced and less resource-intensive, it presents greater and more exciting opportunities for a wider array of applications. Since October 2018, Edify has been working with researchers at the University of Glasgow on Project Mobius, which aims to investigate how students experience multi-user VR scenarios. Although the project is still ongoing, the preliminary findings from their first experiments are now available to read as a pre-print.
Project Mobius set up three different VR labs in various settings around Glasgow, each programmed with a number of different lessons ranging from geology fieldwork on the Isle of Arran to a voyage through the human digestive system to a simulation of the Trolley Problem.
One of the labs, in the grand Partick Burgh Hall, was a permanent fixture with HTC Vive Pro headsets connected to PCs and clearly marked-out ‘Play Areas,’ while the second was a pop-up lab in a student union building on the university’s campus. This space used smaller Oculus Quest headsets that don’t need to be connected to a base station, and feature pass-through cameras so that users could see what was going on around them meaning that this lab didn’t need to build permanent Play Areas.
The third experiment set up an individual, private VR pod in an office on campus. The idea behind this lab was to give teaching staff a room they can book which would have all the necessary tools for developing their own immersive lessons through the Edify Lesson Creator application. These lessons could then be delivered to students in one of the teaching labs.
Project Mobius created ten VR lessons, each of which presented a teaching scenario that wouldn't have been possible in the real world. These included:
- Exploring the landscape of the Isle of Arran in ways that wouldn’t be possible if they had been there in person
- An introduction to the physics of projectile motion where students could perform a bouncing ball experiment while changing variables like friction and gravity
- Viewing and interacting with mutating proteins
- Visualising, exploring, and manipulating data as a 3D landscape
- Going back in time to see Gutenberg’s printing press and trying it for themselves
- A trip to the human stomach to see digestion in action
- Following a patient’s battle with salmonella and controlling their immune response to the infection
- Exploring the heart and travelling through a blood vessel, modelling the effects of different hypertension medicines
- Simulating the trolley problem
- Working in a disease diagnostics lab and running PCR tests on the Zika virus
Overall, participants in the Project Mobius lessons engaged with their virtual lessons and were happy to freely explore and interact with their environments outside of the tasks set for them in the lesson, but this wasn’t uniform across all the lessons. For example, students seemed to feel more comfortable in the science labs than in the Gutenberg printing press lesson even though they weren’t scientists – this might be because the students have become familiar with lab environments through other means while the 15th century printing press was less familiar to them.
Because VR headsets are kitted out with an array of sensors, Project Mobius was able to collect a vast amount of data on how participants interacted with their VR environments and with each other in those virtual environments. As it’s only a preliminary report, the pre-print paper doesn’t draw many conclusions, but they do give an example of how fine-grained the data they can collect is. They note that in the disease diagnostics lab scenario, a student tended to use their right hand much more than their left while interacting with objects in a laminar flow cabinet.
The paper argues that teachers can use this kind of data to improve their teaching. For example, if a teacher examines positional data in the aggregate from their lessons then they can find out if students are spending a disproportionate amount of time on a certain task and iterate on their lessons accordingly.
Project Mobius has the ability to collect an unprecedented amount of data about how students experience VR lessons, the paper concludes, and the authors argue that this data can be transformative for education and educators.
Want to know more about Project Mobius? The authors of the paper will be joining Edify for an upcoming edition of our weekly Fireside Chats, on 17th February 5-6pm GMT. Find out more about Edify here or sign up to our mailing list to hear about upcoming Fireside Chats and expert talks.
Curious about how you could leverage virtual reality to enhance learning outcomes? Find out more about how we partner with universities on our dedicated higher education page.