For some, getting a classroom education isn’t a feasible reality. Thanks to computer science majors, pixels and code can be accessed by the many.
Computer science meets senior design
Access to online learning has grown significantly in the past ten years that has provided a cost-effective solution to millions of knowledge-seekers. “Both my faculty advisor, Dr. Kachouie, and I have had experience with online courses in the past and thought the experience could benefit from new approaches,” says Roger Ballard, mathematical sciences and computer science major.
With this aim, Roger set to work on his senior design project to create a truly hybrid learning environment, one built in virtual reality using his computer science degree. “This project aims to bridge the gap between online and in-person learning by eliminating some of the drawbacks of online learning while still retaining the benefits,” he says.
Using Microsoft Connect, an Oculus Rift DK2 headset and Vizard software, a student’s full-body motion is tracked and their avatar arrives to class. In this new virtual classroom, a student could not only feel a more visceral connection to their fellow classmates, they could also ask for instant clarification on the lecture being delivered in real time from a professor. “Much of the human interaction that is normally lost in an online setting can be regained using this system,” says Roger.
The applications are as numerous as the students who would benefit. High school students in rural areas, often spending more than an hour on the bus to get to school, could skip the commute and still see friends and teachers every day in their virtual classroom.
This new digital landscape opens itself to innovative learning tools as well. “Instead of relying on a one dimensional whiteboard drawing, a chemistry teacher could theoretically upload an interactive 3D model of an electron orbital into their virtual classroom,” says Roger.
Senior design takeaways
“No matter how hard or large a problem seems, if you come at it with enthusiasm and a plan, piece by piece, eventually you’ll look back and be surprised by just how far you’ve come,” says Roger. Roger’s hard work paid off, his project took home best in show for education and interdisciplinary studies.