The Digital Learning Hub supports a range of modern and engaging learning tools for undergraduate and graduate students alike. We also host students conducting their own development or research projects within the Hub.
Virtual Reality (VR) is an immersive platform which places the user at the centre of the experience, surrounded by a realistic and interactive environment. Recent advances in VR technology take over the senses of the user, transporting them to anywhere the program leads them. A student can now be transported to ancient Rome, the Louvre, a confronting or dangerous situation where they must triage mass casualties or learn French by sitting at a Parisian café. I watched a student in our Department with Muscular Dystrophy swim with the sea turtles, and a group of Egyptian scholars explore a tomb no longer accessible to the public. Beyond distance learning, VR can now enable interactions previously impossible- such as interacting with a beating human heart in true 3D.
Using 16 Oculus Rift, the Digital Learning Hub hosts activities for groups large and small, ranging from 30 high school students, through to 2000 first-year biology students!
Here are just a few of the engaging activities that students have enjoyed:
The Virtual Reality Human Heart
The Virtual Reality Human Heart is an application we built ourselves in the Digital Learning Hub. It enables students to do something that is impossible without VR- hold a beating human heart in their hand. You can make parts of the heart clear to see inside, and even make it huge to put your head inside it! We are building guided learning activities appropriate to all year levels of biology, Physiology, and Anatomy, and so far thousands of students have enjoyed using the app.
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (Steel Crate Games) is a teambuilding activity which places on group member in VR with a bomb they need to diffuse by solving a series of puzzles. Their teammates, not in VR, have the manual on how to solve the puzzles and diffuse the bomb. You have 5 minutes before you all “explode”! The activity teaches clear succinct communication, group problem-solving, and teamwork, and most importantly, it’s lots of fun! It’s a great icebreaker to start off a group project or teambuilding workshop.
Nefertari: Journey to Eternity
Nefertari: Journey to Eternity (Experius VR, CuriosityStream) is a highly detailed recreation of the legendary Egyptian Queen’s tomb. As the tomb has now been closed off to the public, the only way to explore it is through VR. Ancient Egyptian Studies students come to the DLH and spend hours reading the hieroglyphics and exploring this fascinating ancient site.
Nanome (Nanome Inc.) is a VR application for studying the things we can’t see- molecules. It also enables multiple users from anywhere in the world to come together in the same virtual room and talk to each other, interact with the molecules, or even present their findings or ideas. The program is currently used in Pharmacology classes to teach students about how proteins change shape when they interact with other chemicals.
Sectra terminals are large touchscreen workstations which enable interactive learning activities in Anatomy, Pathology and Cell Biology. Each table can host a small group of students working together in an interactive and collaborative environment. The accompanying Sectra Education Portal features high-quality real-life anatomy and clinical cases, and customisable imaging content to enhance practical lab activities and lectures.
Coming Soon: Augmented Reality
Augmented Reality (AR) using the Hololens 2 is an exciting emerging technology which enables 3D images or animations to be overlayed in the real world. Unlike VR, which transports the user to an entirely novel environment, AR adds objects to the user’s current environment, overlaying them on a clear screen. This is great for having multiple students working together on one rendered object, or even overlaying virtual instructions or labels on a complex machine!
Interactive Online Learning
In addition to the learning tools we host in the Digital Learning Hub, we are also committed to the development and curation of engaging online digital learning tools to help students understand challenging concepts. Many of these are supported by rich interactive 3D elements built by our in-house animator. We are especially focused on collaborative online learning experiences, which enable students to communicate on a global scale with their diverse learning community.