Can virtual simulations and augmented realities lead to improved learning experiences? Members of the Emerging Media Community of Practice think they can do that, and they’d like to connect with others who feel the same way.
Post by the BCcampus editorial team
In early 2016, a group of faculty and staff at the University of British Columbia (UBC) got together to form a working group to discuss using virtual reality and augmented reality in education, with a goal of leveraging these digital experiences to enhance learning. This coincided with the formation of the Emerging Media Lab (EML) at UBC: a space for faculty, staff, and students to find creative ways to evolve learning using emerging media and technologies. As the working group grew and gained interest from other institutions and industry partners, it made sense to expand the idea, resulting in the creation of the Emerging Media Community of Practice (EMCoP).
“We’re eager to connect with institutions throughout the province and across the continent,” said Saeed Dyanatkar, executive producer at UBC Studios and Emerging Media Lab. “EMCoP is a product of the EML at UBC, but we don’t want anyone to feel that UBC owns it — it belongs to the community.
“The EML is an open lab; everything we do is open. We’re fortunate to be located near the many tech companies working in Vancouver within immersive media. We include industry partners in our monthly sessions to share what’s happening in their space, with the understanding that the CoP is a place to exchange knowledge and not promote their products.”
EMCoP serves three purposes: providing a forum to share projects and expertise among members; creating an environment to solve real-world challenges around immersive technology as it relates to education and research; and developing a robust network of people interested in the role of virtual reality and augmented reality in education and research.
The New Reality
The technology used in this space has had many names, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR). VR focuses on creating an immersive experience, and AR brings a digitized overlay to the real world. While MR is often conflated with AR, it does a better job of integrating the virtual environment with the tangible. Extended reality (XR) is the current descriptor, encompassing all natural and virtual environments produced by wearables and computing technology.
A Community of Collaboration
“Each session has two components,” explained Saeed. “The first is all about the presentations. There are usually three: one is academic, usually shared by the university host; one is from an industry partner; and one is student-based, with students sharing what they’re working on. The host institution decides on the format, whether it’s a panel, presentation, or discussion. The second part is socialization, where we learn more about the people in the post-secondary sector and industry experts and community partners interested in what we’re doing. Pre-pandemic, it was hard for people to meet up because they weren’t physically in the same space, but now everyone can connect, and it makes it much easier to go beyond a city or even the province.”
Join the Community
If your institution isn’t part of the EMCoP yet, you’re welcome to join in the fun times. Visit the EMCoP website to subscribe for updates, sign up for upcoming events, and learn more about this talented team focused on developing emerging media technologies for human good.
Supporting Emerging Media
At BCcampus we’ve supported emerging media in education to create and share new opportunities for years through projects like:
- SOILx.ca — the first known use of augmented reality in higher education in Canada
- Geography VR — our first EML project and the first known use of virtual reality in UBC courses
- VR and AR field trips — a look at how a BCcampus open education grant was used to create experiential learning adventures
- Bridging the accessibility gap with VR— Derek Turner, a faculty member at Douglas College, shared his findings from his 2019–2020 BCcampus Educational Technology Fellowship
Additional Communities of Practice in B.C.
Collaborative environments are a bit addictive: once you join one, you start noticing opportunities to contribute to others. If you’d like to support education in B.C., check out these communities of practice to see if there’s a fit for your interests:
Educational Technology Users Group
ETUG is a highly engaged community of educators focused on using technology to enhance teaching and learning: etug.ca
Simon Fraser University Community of Practitioners in Education
SCoPE is rich with people interested in educational research and practices and delivers dialogue across disciplines, geographical borders, professions, levels of expertise, and education sectors: scope.BCcampus.ca
British Columbia Teaching & Learning Council
The BCTLC is a community of leaders in the B.C. post-secondary system working on improvements to teaching, learning technologies, scholarly practice, student learning, and related topics: bctlc.ca
B.C. Open Educational Technology Collaborative
A “loosely-knit, tightly-honed” group of educators works together as OpenETC, providing open and ethical online tools to educators: opened.ca
B.C. Open Education Librarians
A supportive community of librarians sharing and improving their knowledge of open education practices: bcoel.ca
“Alongside the creation of Emerging Media Lab in 2016, a VR/AR community of practice was also formed at UBC. The objective of this CoP was to facilitate the knowledge sharing between members of academy, industry and community on applications of immersive media such as VR/AR in higher education.”
– Saeed Dyanatkar, executive producer, UBC Studios and Emerging Media Lab