A changed World.

Immersive technology changing the boundaries.

Before lockdown and the onset of social distancing, classroom teaching was the norm with just a few innovators willing to experiment with technologies that are truly immersive and engaging.

Corona Virus - Covid-19.  Four circular cells with protruding blob like tentacles seemingly floating in a fluid.

Covid-19 and Social Distancing has meant we all have to think differently and about ways of delivering exciting and engaging taught sessions. When normally we would be rubbing shoulders with each other, on campus or journeying together on a shared learning experience such as a field trip or an on-location workshop. The new norm is working at distance and from home, for many of us.

For every generation there will be something radical that changes the way we view the world around us, like a movement, event, a moment or an advancement, be it technological or otherwise. The Corona Virus is devastating, having a profound effect on all our lives. And yet isolation has, for many, brought people much closer together. Working from home, relying on technology to stay connected with each other, to the weekly ritual of clapping key-worker heroes for keeping us safe and to those keeping the country moving has, for many, been an inspiration.

Arguably, less devastating but by no means less impactful, for me and those of my generation, was the battle for supremacy between Betamax and VHS video cassette “Tape Wars“. We all know how that ended! Being able to record TV programmes, purchasing the latest movie rentals from the corner shop whist at the same time, buying the family groceries for the weekend, was a revelation!

Before video was seen as mainstream in education, the viewer experience was one of, large group viewing events, and live broadcasts. Those of us of a certain age will remember watching educational programmes or significant events on an oversized television, that had to be pushed in to a large assembly hall, on a trolley, by the Head Master or Caretaker, whilst you and your fellow pupils huddled together on a cold wooden floor.

Old (1970's) CRT television in front of a red curtain backdrop.

With the advent of video, academics began to add recordings to their taught sessions, taking control of when to show videos that, in some cases, they had recorded themselves, usually on a VHS or Betamax tape cassette. Video recordings could now be linked to the topic and used as important viewing, aimed at supporting learning and following sessions for added context and explanation.

The latest video technology allows us to immerse ourselves in a whole new world and enjoy a completely different viewing experience.

Today’s immersive technology has the potential for delivering new and exciting spheres of learning. Academics are beginning to take advantage and are already deploying content such as 360-degree video into the taught curriculum, as an essential part of the student learning and experience. 

Here at Edge Hill University academics are encouraged to explore 360-degree VR technology.  Students can learn new skills, be introduced to real-world scenarios and conditions that they wouldn’t otherwise come across, because of, either an impairment or until graduating. 

Person operating the latest VR equipment in an immersive environment (the CAVE) within the University Tech Hub.
Computer Automated Virtual Environment (CAVE).

360-degree Policing.

Andrew Whittle (Programme Leader – Policing Degree) talks about how this technology is helping students on his courses come to terms with the complexities of being a Police Officer in today’s modern Police Force.  Andrew and his team take students through real-time scenarios, where they are faced with a crime scene, with real challenges and clues for solving the case.

Student (Police Officer) peering into the Crime House mock cell containing a student playing the part of a prisoner.  Andrew Whittle is pictured in the scene.  The caption says "360-degree technology: Immersing students in the reality of a crime scene.
Transcript
VR headset icon to mark link to 360 video.

Policing Students investigate the scene of a crime, in this short 360-degree video, set within the grounds of a Victorian detached property, Edge Hill University’s Crime House Training and Simulation Facility. When viewing the video, click and drag the image to view the whole scene, as a student explores every inch for clues to help solve the case (transcript).

360-degree collaboration.

The English, History and Creative Writing Department has partnered up with the country’s oldest repertory theatre, Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, formally the Star Music Hall.   The Department has worked with the University’s Learning Services to produce several recordings, including a series of 360-degree videos, artifacts and learning resources based in and around the building. Interviews with theatre staff provide a rich knowledge base, from which students can explore and use for research and course work. 

Professor Paul Ward (Head of English, History and Creative Writing), talks about his vision of using technology such as 360-degree video on his programmes. Students studying English, History and Creative Writing, will explore and engage in more innovative ways of working. Paul also explains the importance of internal and external collaborative relationships, such as those his department has with Learning Services and the recent partnership with Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres

360 view of Williamson Square Liverpool, Professor Paul Ward pictured in the scene, The caption says "360 degree technology: Expand and change your world".
Transcript
VR headset icon to mark link to 360 video.

Take a virtual tour of The Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, listen to Allan Williams’ (Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse Theatres, Learning Manager) commentary. Control this short video in every direction as you move through the recording toward and into the Liverpool Playhouse Theatre, situated on the eastern side of Williamson Square, before entering the auditorium views of the stage, stalls, circle and gallery space (transcript).

Inclusion and enrichment

Being able to challenge students with real-life situations and scenarios is increasingly possible. A major benefit of 360-degree video is inclusion, students can now access and experience challenging environments during lectures or from the comfort of their own home, anywhere they have access to the internet and at the click of a button.

360-degree creation can be as simple as using an app on your mobile device or with a standard 360 camera. Edge Hill University’s staff can call upon state of the art resources and expertise (Media Production Team). Developing external, collaborative partnerships, such as those forged by Faculties with local agencies, for example, North West Police Forces, NHS Hospitals Trusts and the creative arts industries, including Liverpool’s Everyman and Playhouse Theatres, contribute to enriching student’s experience and ultimately their learning.

Being able to explore immersive content that allows us to decide where to go, in storytelling isn’t new. However, with the latest video production techniques, it’s possible to move between spaces, access environments that might otherwise be too remote, activate portals (hot-spots) to more information and enter new unexplored realms that help tell the story on a number of levels.

Examples of 360 video used in education:

If you would like to learn more about using 360-degree content in teaching, talk to your Learning Technology Development Officer for more information.

Martin Baxter
Martin Baxter Learning Technology Development Officer

Hosting all around – 360° video content.

360° content is increasing in popularity.

360 video on smart phoneThe production of 360 degree content couldn’t be easier; most of us have access to devices capable of capturing images that software or apps can stitch together to give an immersive viewing experience.

Lecturers across the university continue to explore this technology, generating good quality content for students to access through their devices whilst studying a module.

However, our own Media Production Team have invested Sample of 360° video camerasin the latest Insta360 Pro 360º professional camera, which they explain, presents a whole range of new possibilities when filming around campus. To learn more about the Media Production Team and the Insta360, visit the Learning Services wiki pages.

Examples of use: Areas across campus where 360° video is being used and generating interest:

  • Faculty of Health and Social Care – Paramedics and the 360° Experience. An ambitious project which aims to expose students to a variety of environments, giving them a sense of being present at a scene without actually being there in person (virtual practitioner).  Barry Mathews (Lecturer in Paramedic Practice and Pre-hospital Care) is exploring the potential of 360° images to simulate hazardous and clinical settings. Students will practice their observational skills and identify individual hazards and use this to influence their dynamic operational risk assessment.
  • Whilst on field trips with her students, Susan Jones (Lecturer – Geographical Information Systems) produced a series of 360° photographs of locations visited along the Northwest Coastline of scientific interest.  For Sue, who is keen to start using immersive content on her modules, this was an exciting time to (metaphorically speaking), tentatively dip a toe into the immersive water. Initial thoughts suggest there is value in producing content that students can use for revision, that gives them the means to study and explore areas of interest and identify points of reference.
  • The University Library, as part of its introduction to staff and students, has produced a 360° tour. People can take a virtual look around the different spaces and facilities before actually visiting in person. Interactive hot-spots provide information whilst red target-like buttons make it possible to move from room to room and between floors.

Other uses of 360 content:

  • Capital Projects site walk-through (CATALYST). Experience Edge Hill University’s newest £26m building, go on a tour with others and see how the building looks during its construction.
  • Aintree Library IT Suite and Issue Desk 360° Images. Never visited Edge Hill University’s Aintree Library? These photosphere images give you an all-round view of the IT Suite, Issue Desk, study space and shelf stock.

Plans for future use:

  • Paul Ward’s (Head of English and History) interest in 360 content, to make resources that are fun and interactive.  It also enables the department to address all the disciplines; so for example, a virtual fieldtrip using 360 would allow historians to look at developments across time, linguists to look at language use in different contexts, creative writers to visit new settings for fiction, and literary critics to explore literary connections or literary settings.  Paul goes on to say, “It also shows students how digital technologies that they are familiar with are learning and research tools”.

Options for hosting your 360° video content.

There are many hosting options around, the trouble is most offer hosting at a price, via a subscription, or they have free versions that are limited in features or for a limited time.

Here, we look at three of the most popular services used by staff at Edge Hill University.

About each platform

Online option: YouTube

YouTube Logo

A free video sharing/social website where anyone with an account can view, upload and share content.

If you need your content to be shared worldwide, YouTube is the second largest search engine. However, if you wish to target your audience, for instance within a module, by hosting your videos on YouTube, you are sending your audience to a third party site. This means that YouTube videos will be more visible within Google, compared to the videos embedded on your modules.

Unwanted content, clutter can be distracting for some, particularly those with a Specific Learning Difficulty (SpLD). YouTube’s auto play function means students may view unrelated content based on their own search criteria and pattern.

Online option: Vimeo

Vimeo Logo

Aimed at giving filmmakers a platform to present and promote their work.

Unlike YouTube, Vimeo doesn’t rely on funding from ads, preferring to offer a service which has less clutter, charging a membership fee for 500MB of space per month. Unless you opt for Pro membership, Vimeo’s video player incorporates its logo alongside your content.

Institution option: Panopto

Panopto LogoInstitutional platform to manage, live stream, record, and share videos across an organisation and/or a specific module in Learning Edge.

A secure platform for educational content, you manage access and take control of what your audience can see, no adverts, or suggested videos and no more clutter.  Unlimited space, full feature and no additional cost implications.

The University offers dedicated support and staff training. Guides and FAQs provide just-in-time resources at the point of need. Students can benefit from using assistive tools, with Panopto’s playback viewer, such as:

  • A graphical and textual index of PowerPoint slides.
  • The ability to slow down or speed up the recording.
  • The ability to make time-stamped typed notes and bookmarks.
  • A search tool that indexes on-screen text as well as spoken audio.

For a comparative view of the three services covered in this post, click the image below:

360 video hosting comparison matrix

Alternatively, download a PDF version: 360° Video Platform Comparison Matrix.

If you are interested in finding out more about creating your own 360° content and hosting options, contact Learning Technology Development Team via ext.7754, ltdsupport@edgehill.ac.uk or Ask LTD knowledge base.

Martin Baxter

 

 

Martin Baxter
Learning Technology Development Officer

Paramedics and the 360° Experience.

Barry Matthews (Lecturer in Paramedic Practice and Pre-hospital Care) based at Edge Hill University’s Manchester Campus.  Barry has been trying out Learning Services’ Giroptic 360cam, to create immersive resources for his students.

The Giroptic 360cam produces 360° photographs and video and was the topic, back in January 2017, of Mark Wilcock’s blog post “360 Degrees of Learning Potential”.

Barry agreed to talk to us (on video) about his experience of using the 360cam and his ambition to expose his students to as many on-the-job challenges and dangers as possible, without putting them in harms way.  He is convinced that the introduction of immersive technologies has the potential for doing this.YouTube PlayerRead on and learn more about Barry’s vision to offer an immersive experience for his students, which might otherwise be impossible to do within the safe and controlled environment of a classroom or simulation centre.

“The paramedic team have recently been experimenting with social media to reach current and future students/applicants. We have found that a lot of applicants attend open days at the Ormskirk campus and that their attendance at the interview day is the first time they have ever seen inside the Manchester site (St James’). I wanted to use the 360cam to give prospective students a view of what resources and facilities are utilised at St James’ and to give them a chance to see the bespoke teaching environment, clinical skills area and of course, the ambulance.

This mini-projeAmbulance and Clinical Skills room ct of these images for social media was to gain some experience of using a 360cam, and discover its potential and limitations. It was easy to use, but as St James’ has multiple companies with multiple Wi-Fi networks, a stable connection to a weak standalone Wi-Fi was impossible. This meant I had to set the camera up, push the shutter button and run. This was not particularly easy with so many reflective surfaces! I had to be inventive with my camera placement, opening doors to change the reflective angle of the glass and setting up somewhere near to hide. I do have some nice photos of a garden taken using the Wi-Fi at 10m, so it does work outside of this Wi-Fi jungle.

The 360cam is a simple device to use and can be controlled by buttons on the device itself, or by using a mobile platform and its own Wi-Fi. This produces three images in 4k definition which the software stiches together to form a 300°x360° image, as a panoramic, that can be exported as a JPEG. I then uploaded the panoramic image into Facebook which transformed it into a photosphere which can be explored on any device. The only additional software I used was Adobe Photoshop to blur a face out of one of the pictures, which is available through the EU application catalogue.

The resolution of the images taken by the Giroptic 360cam are good, a little bit of noise,Giroptic 360cam in palm of hand but useable. The video does not record in the same definition (2k) so I didn’t use this functionality as the images were more than sufficient for the aims of this task.

Within the paramedic team, we have a great many potential uses for a 360cam-like technology. Simulation training enhances skills such as functional expertise, problem-solving, decision making and team-based competences (Lateef, 2010). Ambulance crews can work in any environment, and at times these can be stressful. We want to simulate these stresses for our student paramedics by using immersive environments. We utilise a room which projects video on the walls, with sound, to recreate these stressful and potentially dangerous environments to prepare our students for practice in a safe and controlled way.

The recreation of an environment has been shown to increase student engagement; with a negative aspect being identified as at times the environment can be distracting to the student (Bradley, 2006). This is exactly what we want with a student on both the DipHE and BSc (Hons) Paramedic Practice programmes. The situations that they will be working in when they qualify can potentially be distracting and dangerous, so we want to prepare for them for this so they don’t lose focus of their environment. I have attended patients in football stadiums, on airport runways, between live motorway carriageways…. I could probably describe a patient in every environment you can think of, and add some to the list.R.T.A. Scene Re-creation

Another use for the 360cam we are looking to explore is the creation of images of potentially hazardous environments, such as ‘drug dens’, construction sites etc. The students can then practice their observational skills and identify individual hazards and use this to influence their dynamic operational risk assessment. It is important the students learn how to identify hazards before they develop in a safe and protective environment. Therefore they can maintain not only their own safety, but also the safety of their colleagues and their patient, in any environment or situation they are presented with.”

Barry Matthews

 

 

Barry Matthews
Lecturer in Paramedic Practice and Pre-hospital Care

 

Are you interested using this technology or looking to explore innovation in your area please get in touch with us. We’d be more than happy to answer any questions or just get in touch if you would simply like to know more!

Contact us by email LTDSupport@edgehill.ac.uk or phone us on Ext 7754.