A team of students develops virtual classrooms at ASU’s Learning Futures

Learning Futures students are developing a virtual reality learning space called Huddle that will be tested by an ASU class later this semester. Huddle is an instructor-led virtual learning experience running on new cellular technology that will be used as a teaching tool.

In Huddle, students, using VR headsets and controllers, can interact with virtual objects – like a piece of coral or a model of water molecules – and their surroundings to learn about different topics. Huddle lets students choose their avatars, which look like stick figures, and draw 3D objects with a pen tool.

When developing Huddle, the team thought students, many of whom grew up playing video games, would be familiar with the video game nature of Huddle, said Dan Munnerley, Co-Executive Director and Design Architect. principal for Next Generation Learning at ASU.

“Learners right now, in the K-12 system, have grown up with things like Roblox, with Minecraft, with games, that’s really how all of us, myself included, have been successful,” Munnerley said. . “And they learned a lot in that space. So why shouldn’t they continue to learn now in college using the skills they’ve already learned along the way?”

Over the past two years, a student-led team from Learning Futures has been developing Huddle, said Toby Kidd, director of Learning Futures Studios.

READ MORE: ASU Team Develops Virtual Reality Software to Teach Cross-Cultural Norms

One of Huddle’s first tests with students outside the team will take place in a few weeks at Learning Futures, located in the Creativity Commons building in Tempe, with students and their instructor from HST 130: The Historian’s Craft, said Kidd.

Huddle can be used in history lessons to immerse students in historical virtual space, such as World War I trenches, and allow them to manipulate virtual artifacts from that time period, Munnerley said.

“They bring artifacts of history to life in Huddle where students can actually get their hands on these pieces of history, inspect them up close, pass them around, and see them in context,” Munnerley said.

Students in the history class will work in small groups and be led by an instructor who controls the tools and objects students can see or use. Huddle uses Oculus headsets and controllers and is connected by 5G, a cellular technology that is faster and has less delays in data transmission than previous technology over cellular networks.

The Creativity Commons in Tempe is connected by Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband. Learning Futures is a Verizon 5G Innovation Center, which means that when operating in space, Huddle uses Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband.

“All of this space is being lit by 5G,” Kidd said.

Although initial testing is being done at Learning Futures, classes will not have to come to this location in the future to use Huddle because the equipment Huddle runs on is portable and can be brought into classrooms. Next semester, the Huddle team plans to bring its VR learning experience to a class at the Thunderbird School of Global Management, Kidd said.

Some students who have used virtual reality are open to using it in classrooms for teaching. Ernesto Peralta, a freshman studying secondary education in English, said he has played VR video games before and thinks VR technology can teach people who are both auditory and visual learners.

“With virtual reality, you can combine them both into one world,” Peralta said. “You can experience it, you can walk through it. You live what you are taught.”

Huddle will not be the first application of virtual reality as a learning technology for ASU classrooms. Students in BIO 100: Living World Classrooms do virtual labs in Dreamscape Learn, a virtual reality experience where students learn about ecology and explore an alien zoo.

Learning Futures develops other virtual reality software, including simulations to teach people the nuances of cross-cultural norms and an interactive virtual replica of the ASU Tempe campus.

The multitude of fields in which virtual reality is applied shows that the opportunity offered by the technology is being seized, Kidd said.

“Virtual reality is nothing new,” Kidd said. “This technology has been around for decades, but we’re finally at a point where we can see that there are multiple groups pursuing multiple paths to deploying immersive technology. And that’s a good thing. That means there’s has a lot of work for people to do and a lot of innovation to do and advance education using immersive tools.”

For Munnerley, VR technology is a great opportunity for students like him who struggle with traditional ways of learning in school.

“I think that’s what drove me to find a platform that works for people who don’t typically fit the academic model, and to create immersive 3D learning environments that really engage and excite people. kids who don’t have those opportunities,” says Munnerley. “I think that’s what virtual reality does, is it physically puts things in your hands. It puts you in different worlds and kind of allows you to be in places that you don’t. would never have access.”

Edited by Wyatt Myskow, Greta Forslund and Piper Hansen.


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Kaden RybackBusiness and Technology Journalist

Kaden is a reporter for the Biztech Bureau, focusing on student-run businesses, people profiles, and research papers. While at The State Press, Kaden’s biggest story was about ASU’s history with NASA. He is a sophomore majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication.


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