This project, explores the new possibilities that XR applications can foster in the understanding and representation of architectural designs, construction systems, details and sequences at a pedagogical level within the classroom. Using XR as a learning environment provides a significant step forward, where students will be able to move beyond their screens and embody design scenarios through an immersive environment. They will be able to develop a greater understanding of the designed space as well as have the ability to more easily visualize the complex array of layers that are included in the assemblage of an occupiable structure.
The project also, intended to provide the basic hardware and software to allow students to explore these spaces both inside and outside the classroom.
The project was able to achieve the goals it set to provide and test a new way of teaching and learning within the Arch317/417 Construction (100+ Students) course at the college. Through the grant we were able to develop a beta app that would allow students to explore two structure that aligned with the steel construction module of the course. This also set the framework for further development that will expand the app to include the four additional material modules that the course covers. This initial test also allowed for students to submit feedback on how the would like to see this technology further integrated into their course work. This shed some valuable insight as to how the course and the technology need to be more closely aligned in order to achieve a more productive outcome.
In addition to the integration into Arch317/417, the development of the material allowed for a new experimental seminar to be established, Arch509 Augmented Tectonics. (10 Students) This course leverages knowledge built through the research to develop a new course that provide students with the tools and skill set to explore architectural representation and tectonics using virtual reality and Unity. This course will also become part of a new XR Certificate that the college will be offering in the near future which will increase the amount of student affected.
Lastly, the grant supported the purchase equipment (2 laptops and 4 VR headsets) which is currently available to a small set of students for daily loan from the college. After a semester trial period we will open this up to all of the students (500+) at the college to have access to this technology.
The project is continuing beyond this project grant period in three ways.
1. It is being permanently added to the course work of Arch317/417
2. It will continue to be offered as a seminar Arch509 Augmented Tectonics, which will also form part of a new XR certificate program at Taubman College.
3. The work initiated through the grant will now be further funded through an XR grant from the Office of Academic Innovation.
The project has currently been disseminated with a lightning talk at Enriching Scholarship 2019: Digital Pedagogies and Innovation.
I am also preparing paper for the 2021 CAAV (The Campus Alliance for Advanced Visualization) conference and the IEEE Conference on Virtual Reality and and 3D User Interfaces.
Advice to your Colleagues:
There were many initial challenges in the learning curve of the Oculus system and its integration with Unity. Once a base for working was established this became easier. The more difficult challenge was in the development workflow of the models for the beta app. This required extensive research to find accurate documentation and translate it into a comprehensive model. This part of the project took more time than expected, resulting in less sample models to present to the students through the course.