As we are challenged with finding creative ways to engage students, the Radlab has been working on a variety of possibilities. Implementing virtual worlds into course curricula provides one innovative way for students and faculty to communicate and share learning experiences in real-time. Our goal was to find a solution that is reliable, easy to use, cost-effective, and that will work in virtual reality.
One solution that has been extensively researched in the Radlab is Sansar, a 3D virtual, social platform, where faculty and students can meet in real-time. It provides an immersive environment for self-expression, exploration, and live events where players can shape the narrative as it unfolds. After testing multiple solutions, it became clear that the Sansar game engine covered all requirements. Student and faculty access to the platform is free. Programming capabilities are easy to use, and new features are released weekly.
The Radlab is producing several virtual worlds including a new teaching environment for faculty. Custom programming will be available for courses. Participants create a 3D avatar in Sansar and are then able to visit a variety of locations, including Creighton "worlds."
One of the "worlds" created in Sansar is known as the "Creighton Commons." This is a location not only where students and faculty may meet, but also where perspective students can learn more about Creighton University.
Fr. Greg Carlson, S.J., has a passion for fables. Creighton is fortunate to host this collection that includes 8200 books and 4000 related objects (Aesop’s Artifacts). One of the challenges is to make this collection available for others to enjoy. Chad has created an Aesop’s Fables museum in Sansar to display a number of the artifacts from the fables collection (using the photogrammetry technique with Canon cameras). The collection will eventually include audio files to describe displays and links to PDF files of public domain fables.
With Fr. Carlson’s guidance, the virtual museum has been greatly expanded to include a large variety of artifacts with plans for further development. When completed and made public, this experience will be a unique way for visitors from around the world to view the collection. Those visitors can look at virtual items and pick them up. This may all be done using virtual reality headsets or viewing on a computer. In addition, it serves to promote Creighton and as a model for other collections. Screenshots for parts of the museum are shown below.
Other Virtual Environments
Chad Brocker and his student interns collaborated with a former instructor in Heider College of Business, to convert an onsite activity into an online experience for MBA students. The onsite activity involved groups of students working to build bridges between tables using Legos and other building materials. The activity cultivates essential project management skills including collaboration. With the courses moving online, the challenge for the Radlab was to come up with an alternative, but engaging activity that would help students improve on these same skills.
Sansar was chosen as the platform for this activity. Three Sansar “worlds” were created by Chad: Jurassic World, Medieval World, and Future World. Students use virtual reality technology to explore their world, collaborate in teams, and improve their communication skills to complete the mission by assembling pieces of a teleporter that would allow them to travel between worlds.
The project can be modified and used by others to promote these and other skills.
Virtual World Possibilities
This platform and the worlds that are and can be created open up new options for student/student, student/professor, and other groups to communicate, collaborate, and learn. This can be especially advantageous when meetings are at a distance.