InstaVR Interviews: Meet the VR Practitioners
InstaVR Interviews is a blog series where we turn the spotlight on our customers and industry experts. We find out why they create VR, how they use InstaVR, and what the future of VR will look like. To read more interviews, visit the InstaVR Interviews homepage.
Lennon Parker – University of Arkansas: Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC)
You can read Lennon Parker’s original interview with us here. Their college started off using InstaVR primarily for student recruitment. They’ve published a number of Web VR/Mobile Web/Google Cardboard tours of their campus buildings for prospective students. You can view UA-PTC 360 experience here.
Lennon is back to discuss expanding VR use at the college to benefit enrolled students. Their first in-class VR app specifically helps with easing anxiety during public speaking.
Thanks to Lennon and UA-PTC for sharing their VR in the classroom learnings with us!
Public speaking natural first classroom use case for VR
Question: When we last spoke, you had put together a number of great virtual tours of the different University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College campuses which led to being ranked as one of the top virtual tours in the United States. What convinced you to expand the use of virtual reality technology at UA – Pulaski Tech?
Answer: With the success of our virtual campus, we wanted to take virtual reality into the classroom now. There is so much we can do with this and it’s still an ongoing process, but felt the virtual technology had a lot of opportunity to help our students succeed, especially with public speaking.
Dr. Christy Oberste originates idea for VR app
Question: This past summer, you developed a virtual speech classroom and had success with it. How did that start?
Answer: Our Dean from the school of Fine Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, Dr. Christy Oberste who is always looking for different ways to help our students succeed had seen what I had developed with virtual technology for recruiting and thought it would be very helpful for her students. When we met, she shared with me her idea of developing an app that would help students who have a fear of speaking in front of the class when giving speeches. I thought it was a brilliant idea! I had heard of different success stories from Veterans who used similar virtual technology with PTSD and thought this could be just as beneficial for our students. Right away, I researched this and went to work.
Capturing natural classroom environment key to making realistic VR
Question: Can you talk about how you approached the production of the app?
Answer: For production, I wanted the final product to be as realistic as possible. If our students put a headset on, I want them to feel as if they were in an actual class giving a speech to their classmates. Sorta like the holodeck experience on Star Trek. I didn’t want it to appear staged and fake, but real. If you want real results, you have to keep it real. I haven’t been to a speech class in several years so I visited one of ours and I got to experience what it was like to be at a podium in front of a room with students looking straight at me. My goal now was to virtually capture everything I experienced, even right down to the noises!
With the assistance of Dr. Oberste, we scheduled some time inside a live speech class with a room full of students. I shared with the class what I was doing but made it a point to say, “act exactly like you would if you were listening to one of your classmates give a speech, be natural. If you need to cough, cough.” I wanted it to be real like how I experienced it when I went up to the podium.
Hardware/Software use includes Ricoh Theta V & Adobe Audition
Question: How did you use the Video/audio equipment? Any post editing in Adobe?
Answer: For video/audio equipment used, I used a RICOH THETA V to shoot the VR. I set the equipment up on the podium used by students when giving a speech so the user would have the same view as if they were giving the speech in a live classroom. Again, I wanted this to appear as real as possible. When filming, I asked the students in the classroom to look at the camera as if it were a classmate giving a speech. The end result was awesome! For audio, I used Adobe Audition to assist with the sound.
Sets up web site and works with speech faculty to promote the application
Question: What was your distribution plan?
Answer: My distribution plan is to have our speech faculty recommend this app which is accessible on our website at www.uaptc.edu/vr-speech-class to students that are taking speech and may need it as an additional tool if they have a fear of speaking in front of a class. For our students who don’t own a headset, I’ve given some to our library that can be used in one of our private study rooms.
Extremely positive feedback, helps students pass class
Question: What has been the feedback so far?
Answer: Recently, one of our students was struggling in speech because of the fear of speaking in front of a large group. He ended up dropping the class because of it. I discovered this news from a conversation and right away I thought this new app could help. I gave this student a headset and shared the new speech app a long with encouraging him to try the class again, but this time using the app when practicing as a tool. The great part here was he had never used virtual reality before but was interested in trying it out. Not only did we provide him with a new tool but introduced him to virtual reality were most people think is for gaming only. He signed up again under the same instructor and after spending an entire semester practicing his speeches through the virtual reality speech classroom, it paid off! He passed the class and shared the following statement with me from his instructor:
“Your introduction speech displayed a strong structure. Your main points were engaging; your thesis preview and thesis review were clear. With content, don’t thank the audience so much. One time is fine. With delivery, you had good posture, clarity in voice, and understandable language.”
This I feel is the best feedback I could ever ask for. From a student’s prospective, he shared with me what helped him in the beginning when he first started using the app were the different details the app featured. Seeing a student dropping their pencil, playing with their hair, a pen and the coughing made it very real. I told him that was exact feel I was going for. If the classroom was perfect and quiet with no students, the results wouldn’t have been the same.
VR showcasing culinary school up next
Question: What’s next in terms of your VR plans at UA-PTC?
Answer: Currently, I’m working with our culinary school to develop virtual reality video cooking demonstrations. This would showcase our state of the art labs, our talented faculty and the viewer will learn how to make something at the end of the demonstration. If this is popular, maybe one day we will start doing virtual reality cooking wars competitions like you see on the food network! 🙂
“The development tools InstaVR provides makes setting this up easy and affordable”
Question: What would you say to other schools interested in VR, but hesitant about the time/tech knowledge needed?
Answer: Do it. Make it happen! The success story that I just shared is just one of many that you would receive if you provide these tools to your students. The development tools InstaVR provides makes setting this up easy and affordable.
Thank you to Lennon Parker for sharing how he utilized InstaVR in the classroom at UA-PTC!
***all images provided courtesy/copyright of University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College***