Friday, 6 June 2014

Immersive technology devices and field work: Oculus Rift

Who is your project team? Scott Turner and Naomi Holmes, School of Science and Technology, Adel Gordon, Learning Technology- all University of Northampton
How much funding did you receive? £1,200

Poster available at: or

What is your project? The aim was to investigate the potential use and the student experiences of using virtual reality (Oculus Rift) devices for field trips. Virtual reality field trips have been used by a number of HE institutions for a number of reasons:

  • To give students the opportunity to prepare for a ‘real-life’ field trip (risk assessments, kit selection, project preparation etc)
  • To allow students to reflect on a recent field trip
  • To provide an additional field trip experience without incurring extra costs for the student or institution
  • To improve accessibility to field work experiences
  • To allow distance learning students to participate in field work
Computer-based (virtual reality) field trips have in the past been perceived negatively by students, often due to a poor representation of reality. Currently these field trips take place in 3D environments on a 2D computer screen. There has been an emphasis on enhancing the realism of these virtual field trips.

The recent release of Oculus Rift, a relatively low-cost virtual-reality headset which tracks the user’s head movements, allowing users to ‘walk through’ a virtual landscape immersively, offers an opportunity to further improve the virtual reality field trip experience.

Thirteen Environmental and Geographical Sciences student volunteers tested the Oculus Rift. The students used the Oculus Tuscany Demo software to work around a landscape, spending between 10 and 30 minutes in the landscape. No students had used an Oculus Rift previously. After using the devices they fed back through a questionnaire their views on its use from a learner's perspective.

Do you have any outcomes you can report? From the questionnaires:

  • The students all saw the virtual reality as beneficial only if used alongside or in addition to actual field trip experiences
  • Motion sickness was a common problem of using the devices and so limits the time it can be used
  • Overall the response was positive for the testers
  • Other applications such as studying plant structure, looking at past environments and cell structure were suggested by the students
The work was been disseminated. The results were discussed and participants had a chance to try the Oculus Rifts in a workshop at the recent Northampton Learning and Teaching Conference - Northampton 2018: Planning, Designing and Delivering Student Success.

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