Celebrating innovation in the UBC Emerging Media Lab

A quick look at the Emerging Media Lab at UBC, recent winners of the 2018 Innovation Award from the Canadian University Council of Chief Information Officers (CUCCIO).

Post by BCcampus’ editorial team

When we learned that the Emerging Media Lab (EML) at the University of British Columbia (UBC) had won an award for innovation from CUCCIO, we weren’t particularly surprised as we’d had a sneak preview of this team’s vision and talent through a project we co-funded last year. Through an Open Education grant, UBC Studios, the group behind the EML, was brought in to help the UBC Department of Geography create an openly licensed, virtual field trip of Vancouver’s Stanley Park. We’d also worked with members of this group back in 2012 before there was common-use of the term augmented reality (AR). The team used funds from the Online Program Development Fund (OPDF) to develop SOILx, enabling users to experience the different layers of soil to understand how it was formed without disturbing the physical site.

Saeed Dyanatkar, EML Lead and Executive Producer at UBC Studios, gave us some insight into how the EML operates: “It’s important to understand how we developed the name for this space. We chose ‘emerging’ because we know the technology is always changing. Right now, Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are hot topics, but there will be other platforms in the future. We went with ‘media’ to use the broader sense of the word to focus on the translation of knowledge. And we chose ‘lab’ to give participants permission to fail. This is a place to test theories and ideas; they won’t always work out, but we document everything to share with other researchers so they can learn from what we are doing.”

Working directly with students and faculty, the EML has developed some interesting projects, such as creating a virtual space for students in the school of music to gain hands-on experience conducting an orchestra; developing a HoloBrain mixed reality simulator to study the brain via a holographic model; and Physics World, a fun and engaging approach to help users understand physics.

“Currently, our focus is on teaching and learning,” shared Saeed. “We’re not a research lab; we’re a place to experiment with up and coming technology to evolve learning and student engagement through the content.”

The EML offers an immersive learning orientation on the last Wednesday of every month, where visitors can experience new technology for themselves and learn of the opportunities made possible through new technology.

The annual Innovation Award from CUCCIO recognizes the work being done by individuals, groups, or institutions to build and support Canada’s higher education IT community.

Notable quote:

“Post-secondary education isn’t limited to those that do well with traditional approaches to learning – all students can be successful if provided with the right learning environments.”Denise Goudy, Director, BCcampus

“One of the best things that’s happening is that teaching and learning has a bigger role in decisions about the functionality of software intended for pedagogical purposes. As technology becomes more ubiquitous in learning environments, this change is essential to ensuring what gets developed actually meets the needs of students and teachers.”Mary Burgess, Executive Director, BCcampus

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