Lewis and Clark students have access to virtual reality (VR) technology thanks to the IT department’s VR Experiences Library. Students can experience a variety of applications, digital stories, and games on the Oculus systems available to check out at IT.
“We have a lot of Oculus equipment,” Technology Support Coordinator Jeanie Mullins ’16 said. “(We have the) Oculus Rift, which is the one that is attached to the computer and has the most computing power, and then we have … the Oculus quest which is the standalone with two controllers that you can play a lot of the same games as the Rift but … it doesn’t have the computer behind it. And then the last one is the Oculus Go, which is pretty simple.”
Along with the Oculus systems, IT has Google Cardboard and the Samsung Gear VR systems as well.
“We also have the Google Cardboard, which was the kind of early prototype just to get people understanding the concept,” Educational Technology Specialist Julio Appling said. “And we have the Samsung Gear, both the version that attaches to the phone and also the version that doesn’t need a phone at all.”
Students can check out some of the Oculus systems from IT to use on their own, or students can access VR by visiting the library where there are systems set up for student use.
“We have the Oculus quest in check out, and also I think we have two or three Oculus Gos in check out as well,” Mullins said. “The (Oculus) Rift is often set up in an office in the hallway in the library on the bottom floor.”
VR technology isn’t just being used for video games, it has a wide variety of applications including educational opportunities. At LC, Senior Lecturer in Theatre/Program Head of Dance Susan Davis was able to use VR technology in her dance courses to teach her students about anatomy.
“The dance department is using an anatomy app to look at different parts of the body,” Mullins said. “You can see muscle structures and bone structures, and kind of play around with them.”
The LC Law School was also able to utilize VR to improve student experience. The IT department worked with a student and a professor at the law school and a judge at the Multnomah County Courthouse to develop a VR application that allows students to practice oral arguments in a real courtroom setting.
“The idea is … when you put on the goggles, it’s as if you’re in the center of the courtroom, addressing judges, there’s a person showing you how much time you have, and you can just talk freely, without fear of reprimand,” Educational Technology Specialist Justin Counts ’99 said. “It just gets you comfortable in that space.”
During spring break in 2018, the IT department, working with Co.Reality founder Ben Ross and LC alum Matt Ross ’17, offered a five day workshop called Virtual Reality: Immersive 360 Video Storytelling. In the workshop, students were able to create their own 360° video projects using VR technology.
“The students made videos successfully at the end of the week,” Counts said. “Everyone had something different, there were private testimonials, there was a group that just wanted to do bizarre things so they filmed tiny little things in VR out in the forest and played with putting music to it.”
Counts found that creating a project using 360° video is a very different experience than traditional filmmaking.
“It becomes quickly apparent when you’re filming things in virtual reality or 360° video that the traditional filmmaking methods don’t apply at all because the idea is you should be able to look all around you at any given point,” Counts said. “It’s totally up to the viewer to choose where to look. Whereas in traditional film you’re presented with the information and that’s what you’re going to get. It’s completely the director’s vision.”
The IT department wants to continue to explore all of the possibilities that VR technology can offer and expand the resources available to students and faculty.
“We’re still trying to figure out what it is we want to do with VR and how it actually benefits education,” Counts said. “We’re trying to figure out what problems VR can actually help. We’ve been doing these VR outreach events where we go to different departments and hang out for a few hours a few days a week and let people come by and try out the VR and get some feedback. (We) talk to professors and ask them, is there something you can think of that might help your students if they had this in a VR experience?”
Next semester, the IT department hopes to have a room dedicated to VR and office hours in which students can use the VR technology.
But be warned, VR is not for everyone.
“I put that thing on over my eyes and about 30 seconds in I start projectile vomiting,” Liam Beveridge ’20 said. “I like it, I just can’t handle it.” If you are interested in using the available VR technology or learning more about VR, visit the IT desk in Watzek Library or email firstname.lastname@example.org.