This presentation explores the meaning of open educational resources (OER) in relation to virtual reality (VR) technologies used for education, and discusses 2 case examples that illustrate the issues that might arise. In general, concerns and activities relating to OER tend to refer to access to digital materials, data sets and similar learning resources. Access to educational environments in VR technologies has received little, if any, recognition in the OER literature, despite the use of immersive VR in education having been the subject of research and development for more than 25 years (e.g. Wickens, 1992). As an example of how the data and publication models still dominate our ideas about the meaning of resources in OER, Scanlon (2014) identified 4 concerns amongst educational practitioners relating to online technologies and OER; these were open data, open publication, alternative publication and open educational practices. Virtual technologies did not feature in any of the concerns raised.
Research has demonstrated that VR provides a range of educational benefits such as inclusivity and the opportunities for learners to meet a broad range of stakeholders (Fernandez, 2017). The number of VR platforms dedicated to education is growing as these affordances become more widely recognised and as head-mounted displays and haptics, like Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, are increasingly available. Current examples of educational VR platforms include EngageTM and FieldscapesTM, where the owners of the platforms work in partnership with educators to create and host learning experiences in a range of subject areas.
In this presentation, we argue that VR has been overlooked in the OER debate so far, and that the growth of educational VR platforms will require us to consider many of the issues that arise from the more traditional concerns of open resources. These include copyright ownership, open and free access to the platforms and to their individual learning environments, and how companies that create and host them can balance their business needs with the open resources aspirations of educational institutions and their learners. To illustrate this discussion, two case examples of VR education environments will be presented; Virtual Avebury on the EngageTM platform, and Virtual Midwifery on the FieldscapesTM platform. We will share our experiences of creating these learning environments and the results of student evaluation feedback, leading to a discussion of the issues of opening these platforms for free educational use. We will also discuss how stakeholder groups might benefit from open access to virtual environments, thereby igniting a wider debate on the OER considerations of VR.
Scanlon E. (2014) Scholarship in the digital age: open educational resources, publication and public engagement. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45, 1, pp.12-23.
Wickens C.D. (1992) Virtual reality and education. Proceedings of IEEE International Conference on Systems, Man and Cybernetics. 18-21 Oct 1992.
Fernandez M. (2017) Augmented Virtual Reality: how to improve education systems. Higher Learning Research Communications, 7, 1, pp.1-15.
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