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Bringing augmented and virtual reality to the classroom on a budget
By: by Matt Ramirez (@Jisc_AR) - 2019-02-04 07:01:39

It’s easy to think that augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are only for organizations with hefty budgets and cash to splash.

It’s true that a top-of-the-range piece of tech, such as the Microsoft HoloLens, is certainly impressive and could set you back thousands of pounds. However, there are opportunities for organisations on a budget, such as colleges, to take advantage of immersive edtech without breaking the bank.  

Using what you already have

Last year, I was put in touch with Preston's College, and set the task of arming it with some budget-level, but still impressive edtech.

I took along the HTC Vive (a VR system), and demonstrated a virtual reality version of a futuristic Bodleian library. I also showed off a Structure Sensor, which can scan objects and load them into a repository like Moodle, so they can be displayed as 3D objects.

We also discussed other 3D and VR software that might suit the college, and how existing resources and technology could be used to best enhance teaching, rather than forking out for expensive new kit. This approach will save a fair amount of money in the long run. The team invested in some 3D cameras, and I left feeling excited to see what they might produce.

Putting skeletons online

I returned to Preston's College to attend an e-learning day and was incredibly impressed with what I saw. Old anatomical models that had previously been gathering dust had been scanned into the virtual learning environment (VLE). These can now be accessed online by students, wherever they are.

The models had even been made interactive, so they’re not only excellent for flexible learning, but are immersive and engaging, too.

Watching back drama assessments in 360

Practical music performance assessments were recorded in 360 VR, allowing invigilators to annotate the recordings and pinpoint moments that needed feedback or praise.

Students can now review their assessments in an immersive way

Students can now review their assessments in an immersive way, while linking feedback to their performance, allowing them to improve more rapidly.

Creating VR environments

VR can help organise and plan learning spaces too, and I worked with the college to design a new learning space for a dormant room, using virtual reality.

This sort of technology really helps the designer to see what the new space might look like, allowing furniture and teaching paraphernalia to be placed in a way that works for everyone who might use the space. It also allows students to experience the learning space and to make sure it is appropriate for their use.

Why should we integrate edtech?

The feedback from staff and students at Preston's College when it came to these new technologies was truly great – they were full of energy and appreciative of what the new tech could help everyone to achieve.

Today’s students will probably be using technology that is just emerging now when they start their first jobs

Today’s students will probably be using technology that is just emerging now when they start their first jobs after graduating from college or university, so it’s important that they get to grips with it now.

While VR and AR can sometimes be seen as futuristic, they’re actually very much of the moment and are already being used to train surgeons, for example. The initial cost of a VRcamera might seem daunting, but take a look around you, I bet there’s so much you could do with one to enhance the learning experience for students and staff alike.

Get in touch with Matt (matt.ramirez@jisc.ac.uk) if you’d like advice on what your college could do with AR and VR.

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Barry's Diary of International Students
By: Maura Padron - 2018-11-29 04:55:15

He grew up watching cowboy movies and listening to Michael Jackson songs, yet he is from a country located thousands of miles away from here. Naif Saeed was born in Saudi Arabia, and as many other citizens of his country, he chose to study in the United States to be exposed to the American culture he loved so much. 

  

A finance major, one of his many goals since arriving in Miami has been to share with Americans the values of his homeland —values like honor, honesty and respect. 

 

According to the Migration Policy Institute, the United States has historically been the top destination for international students due to its excellence in higher education, popular culture and labor market. 

  

Today, it remains the country of choice for the largest number of international students, welcoming about 1.1 million in 2017. Barry was, in fact, rated the No.6 college campus for diversity according to the Office of Institutional Research. 

 

Most of them come to Barry from Saudi Arabia, Spain, Bahamas, Venezuela and Brazil, reported the Office of Multicultural Involvement. 

 

¨The most valuable thing I learned here is perseverance and to never ignore or overestimate a small idea, because sooner or later, it can come true," said Saeed, who hopes to one day build his own business empire to benefit youth.  

 

Thinking of big business, international education is the fifth-largest service of export, according to Allan Goodman with the U.S. department of commerce. These students contribute more than $30 billion a year to the U.S. economy.  

 

Ander Urkidi was only a child in the city of Bilbao, Spain when he listened to his grandfather tell stories about living in Miami. At that age, he never imagined that his future awaited him in the sunshine metropolis. 

 

Urkidi is the oldest of three siblings and, as a good Spanish native, he was playing with a soccer ball even before walking. Urkidi´s childhood dream was to play for the national team one day - a dream that he woke up from in his adolescence. Spain limited Urkidi´s professional options, so he chose collegiate studies instead. 

 

¨In Miami, I had the attractive opportunity to combine my passion for soccer with an upper level education as well as receive the economic support of a scholarship,” said Urkidi, who has played as a striker for Barry men’s soccer since he arrived in 2016. 

 

He \made international business his major - just like his grandfather. As many foreign students do, he struggled with the language. He argues that, in Spain, there is not enough emphasis placed on acquiring a high level of English competency. 

 

¨In Miami, you have the advantage to feel more at home with those who speak the same language as you. But, you also have the benefit and responsibility to improve your skills with local speakers," said Urkidi.  

 

Micaela Cordone also started her journey at Barry in 2016.  She felt mixed emotions while looking out of the airplane window, leaving her home of Uruguay behind.  

 

She was born and raised in Punta del Este, a small city in the Charrúa land of Uruguay and from an early age, her parents infused values in her that would make her stand out later in life.  

 

After finishing high school with outstanding grades, Cordone moved to the capital of her country, Monte Video.  Uruguay’s most respectable universities are located only in the capital, so she had to move there to further her education. She started at the best college of the country, yet she felt like a fish out of water.  

 

It was then that the Uruguayan decided to follow her instinct. She started at Barry with a bag full of dreams and a head full of aspirations.    

 

“American schools have more learning resources,” she said. “You have the freedom to choose electives and be more creative doing your schedule. In Uruguay, we do not have that luxury, sadly we have less options that end up limiting our potential.”  

 

 At Barry, there were – however - many obstacles such as language differences, cultural disparities and employment.  

 

¨When companies know you are from abroad, they assume you are not going to stay because of the visa conditions. On the other hand, doing internships is helpful,” she said. “Performance is the best guarantee we have for future job opportunities." 

 

Still, she worked to overcome these barriers. Today, as a junior studying international business, she has made the dean´s list and has internship proposals for next semester.  

 

“As an international student, I have an enormous amount of commitment and responsibility to succeed. Because I recall all the effort and strength my parents and I have done to put me in the position where I am today. To me, success is the best way to show them appreciation,¨ said Cordone.  

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Fine Arts Student Highlight: English Major Jonathan Gonzalez and His Love for Music
By: Johania Charles - 2018-11-29 04:48:37

Jonathan Gonzalez, born and raised in Miami to Nicaraguan parents, believes that he’s always had some sort of connection to music as confirmed by his mother who would have dreams of him singing while being pregnant with him.  

His passion for music began at a very young age and even led him to begin singing at church. 

Once he entered Barry, he took private voice classes with Dr. Giselle Rios, associate professor of music, where he learned proper technique and how to find his voice.  

What started out as voice lessons flourished into a love for the creative arts. He is now a senior majoring in English with a professional writing specialization and a music minor.  

“Music and art in general are therapeutic…it has always helped me deal with difficult situations," said Gonzalez.  

He credits his professors for increasing his passion by pushing him in the right direction.  

Professor Marinel Cruz taught him to believe in himself by showing him that he’s a good singer.  

“She’s absolutely phenomenal….she challenges me to be a better musician," he said.  

Professors John Mendelly,  Vincent Connor and Beverly Coulter pushed him to discover the different areas of his voice. 

“Dr. Coulter pushes me to do everything music majors have to do even though I’m only minoring,” he said. “Sometimes people make you feel like you’re less than but she saw potential and told me I could….I really appreciate her for that,” he said.  

Gonzalez has also been inspired by others such as American composer, playwright and lyricist, Lin-Manuel Miranda who created “In the Heights," a musical about a young storeowner who experiences the highs and lows of his Latin community in Washington Heights. 

“I look up to how he shapes his career because of the way he depicted the idea of Latino community as normal people instead of gangsters as society portrays…he wrote a show where he could be himself,” said Gonzalez.  

With creative writing as an interest since high school, Gonzalez hopes to be able to create roles for those who feel like there are no roles for them, just as Miranda did.  

Gonzalez’s love for writing helps stir his creativity while music allows him to understand how a singer’s voice works, and acting helps him read scripts, which are all elements used when creating a piece. 

 The screenwriting course taught by Dr. Andrea Greenbaum allowed him to explore his creative side by inventing his own movie musical.  

The musical is about a girl with a social anxiety disorder -selective muteness- who struggles to find her voice in a family of singers and society. Her professors and friends help her overcome her anxiety to do what she loves, singing. This movie musical is meant to represent a modern Little Mermaid where instead of losing her voice for a man like Ariel, the protagonist loses it in fear that something will get in the way of her dreams.  

“When Jonathan was just a freshman, and was only an English major at the time, he was the most dedicated vocal performer!” said Isis Ferreira, another vocal performance senior. 

Using his interest in fairy tales, Gonzalez created this story line to reveal how anxiety is like an impulse because of its irrationality. Music is the only thing that feels rational and natural to her. 

“Jonathan’s love for music is so obvious that there is not a single moment where he is not singing or jamming out to whatever song is playing in his head,” said Amanda Lund, a senior majoring in vocal performance. 

Since matriculating at Barry, he has performed in 15 productions. 

In the play Metamorphoses that took place Oct. 11-14, he played Apollo, Vertumnus, the Narrator and Sailor. As Apollo - the god of music - he sung “The Beautiful Light," a part that Coulter thought perfectly fit his voice.  

Gonzalez was recently featured in the “Bernstein and the Big Band” musical production honoring Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday on Nov. 17 in the Broad Auditorium. In it, he played Toni in “West Side Story” and sung the “One Hand One Heart" duet and “I am Easily Assimilated” in the Candid Opera.  

“It’s cool how my classes merge…we read Candid in my World Literary Masterpieces class….everything I chose to study marries seamlessly…that’s the awesome thing about a liberal arts education, you get to dip your toe in what you like,” he said. 

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