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Virtual Reality for Everyone

When Ekaterina Prasolova-Forland, professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology invited me to give a lecture on the theme “immersive technologies supporting education, diversity and inclusion”, I immediately connected with the opportunity due to my personal history.


About my personal Undergraduate Experience


I have a Master Degree in Economics. I started my university studies in Spain, and continued in Sweden, The Netherlands and Germany. I then wrote my master thesis from Italy. I did all this while progressing my career at Ericsson and then Sony Ericsson.

Once a year I would visit France for a week to pass my exams and met with another 20 students doing the same thing. One of them spent the rest of his year in a submarine working for the military and another was fishing in Polynesia.



We all chose this format of studying because it gave us freedom to educate ourselves while exploring the world. Other benefits included the capacity to work and earn money at the same time and our university fees were a fraction of the cost compare to other students.


I chose this particular university in the French Alps because they already offered a distance degree curriculum since the 1980’s and so they had experience and credibility. The learning tools we had were lists of books to read and more books of exercises. There was no exchange with the teachers and if any it would be by snail mail.


My law teacher had gone the extra mile and put all his peers to shame. The whole course was recorded by himself on audio tapes. Wow, I had a podcast course in 1999! This was by far the most engaging lesson.


Internet and emails had started to become a thing – accessible from stationary computers - but no teacher had integrated it to the distance program. Anyway most people did not have internet at home, we had to go to internet cafes to access the web. But I had access to Internet everyday when I started to work for Ericsson in Stockholm and my favorite tool for learning was Wikipedia.


The time I saved with a distance study format was incredible. By the time I graduated, I was 26, I had 6 years working experience and I spoke fluently 4 languages.


When I was preparing for my Norwegian visit, I decided to investigate what University Pierre Mendes France (where I studied) offered in 2019 as media formats for distance students. I discovered it was now called “University Grenoble Alpes” and in 2019 the distance study program included an online access to all the content, courses and exercises as well as collaborative tools for professors and students such as discussion forums and chat services. That was an expected but nonetheless amazing improvement.


Looking at EdTech, a topic worth a looking at is Lifelong Learning


According to The Wall Street Journal’s article “I am still under construction”, “employees face pressure to stay relevant in a rapidly evolving workplace. Employers, politicians and educators are hammering the message that people need to continuously upgrade their skills”.

So I took the chance to reflect on what tools/medias exist for lifelong learning in 2019. Without going into extensive and empirical research, I made a quick inventory of what I use for learning and exploring throughout a typical weekday and during weekends.


Here it is



Weekdays

5-6 AM Explore the world. There is a giant world map in my kitchen on which I put colors pins in an attempt to make sense of everything while reading the news from a variety of online news medias such as The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Economist or The News York Times.

8-9 AM Explore the mind: During commute time, I listen to audio books. Lately I got immersed into Luc Ferry, a French philosopher who explains works from Kant The Critique of Pure Reason. He simple vocabulary makes metaphysics accessible to everyone.

9 AM-6 PM: Learn a new skill or tool at work. I use Youtube, or if I need a quick overview about a subject, I check on Wikipedia.

6-7 PM: Relax and listen to music. If I am very adventurous, I’ll hit the “Play song radio” feature in Spotify to discover new sounds.

9 PM: Chill before bedtime. Sometimes I learn drawing with a book. I also have many friends that still read books at night, so that’s definitely still a media in 2019.


Weekends or Holidays are perfect to immerse into a new subject, because we have more time.

Real life activity: I recently learnt Cross country skating and Biathlon

There is Massive open online courses (MOOC)…I just found out about this…

And…it’s also when I do Virtual Reality!


Why is Virtual Reality a great media for discovery and learning?


When I tried VR the first time, I knew instantly Virtual Reality was for me. I viewed it as a discovery tool and sometimes call it “the Macroscope”. The Macroscope allows us to see the infinitely big (the universe) very clearly. I am convinced that as VR/AR evolve to become our next computing platform, we will discover things we never thought existed.



The German psychologue Hermann Ebbinghaus demonstrated that in less than an hour, a person forgets in average 50% of the information that he/she was presented, 24 hours later, 70% of the information is forgotten. And finally it is 90% after one month.

As pointed by the editor in chief of a news medias company “on a spectrum of information mediums, VR feels like the opposite of Social Medias”. Indeed VR & Immersive Learning leave a mark in your memory like no other medias does according to below infographic by Uptale, a WebVR EdTech startup.



When you try a Virtual Reality experience, the sensation of presence is undeniable. That’s because there is no external disturbances, no notifications and so the mind and senses are in full focus.

According to Uptale, the benefits of using their WebVR software for learning are:


Undivided attention

Learning by Doing

Gamification

Accessibility via WebVR

Safe opportunity to make mistakes and repeat




How could the future of learning look like?


World-class education from anywhere: In 20 years, we will all be wearing glasses to augment or immerse a lesson. Some students will still be in real life classrooms where there will be cameras and sensors everywhere. But most students will be virtually attending from home in Norway, Paris or Argentina in a “learn as you go” format. Lectures will translate real time in local languages.


Mobility/Virtualisation will increase equal opportunities and inclusion: As you probably grasped by now, I have no background in engineering, yet I spent all my life in it and I am currently developing a software product that aims to disrupt the status quo in the VR industry. Where I am now has been possible because of distance studies combined with the web & mobile revolutions. I was always able to access knowledge & connect with people from everywhere.



And…Virtual Reality will be universally accessible, open and device agnostic via the Immersive Web / WebVR.


Thank you NTNU for a very welcoming event

Thank you Ekatarina Prasolova-Forland for the invitation

Thank you Immersive lab students




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