I’m really excited that we have recently completed the launch of a MOOC Specialisation about Virtual Reality that Xueni Pan and I have been developing with the University of London International Programmes (thank you to their amazing production team). The course will be on Coursera starting on the 25th September.
Developing this course has been an opportunity for me to reflect on my work for the last 15 or more years and bring Xueni and my experience to a new generation of VR developers.
I’ve been very privileged to work with some of the worlds leading VR researchers, mostly during my time at Mel Slater and Anthony Steed’s lab at University College London. It was a very exciting place to work and one that combined the technological development of VR (more my area) with experimental work that established our understanding of the psychological experience of VR leading to Mel’s theory of the three illusions: Place Illusion, Plausibility Illusion and Embodiment Illusion (a key underpinning of our MOOC).
When I left UCL I joined Goldsmiths, University of London and there I was lucky to participate in the development of a new approach to teaching computing, centred on interdisciplinarity and creativity. It was there that I really started thinking about pedagogy: how creative and individual practice can drive people to improve their coding skills.
The final piece of the puzzle was when, in 2013, we worked with Coursera and the University of London International Programmes to develop “Creative Programming” one of the first batch of MOOCs to be released from an English University. Making this MOOC really opened my eyes to the possibility of technology for education, using automatic grading and peer assessment to provide fast, constant feedback to students to improve their learning. This experience has informed both my online and on campus teaching since. The online technologies that I have been able to bring to my students at Goldsmiths have supported their learning and enabled personalised experiences even in very large classes.
The Virtual Reality Specialisation brings all of this learning together. VR feels like such a new medium, but it is one that is founded on decades of research on the technology and the psychology of the VR experience. This specialisation allows Xueni and I to share our experience and knowledge of this research with a new generation of VR creators. People are struggling to understand VR, particularly as it is so different from existing media. There is still a lot we don’t know, but actually, if you look at past research, there are a lot more answers than people think. We hope that our MOOC will help people find those answers and start their career as VR creators. VR right now is crying out for good content, which means good content creators. People making VR now are pioneers in the way film makers were in the early 20th century and web developers were in the 1990s: they are not only creating work, they are creating the basic grammar of the medium itself. We feel very privileged and excited to be able to help people get a start in developing what could be the most important medium of the 21st century.