As the University of Michigan continues to plan for how to teach in the fall, leaders behind U-M’s Extended Reality initiative say faculty should consider how more advanced technology can enrich the student learning experience.

To that end, the Center for Academic Innovation is inviting U-M faculty and staff to an event in which they will be encouraged to reimagine courses as hybrid, remote immersive online and in-person teaching experiences that bridge the gap between in-person and online learning.

Center leaders hope participants will explore the use of technology to offer lab and clinical experiences in a virtual setting, and creatively think about how to share, through virtual technologies performances, exhibitions and other experiences that normally require a sense of place.

A Hybrid Immersive Teaching Symposium will take place 9 a.m.-1 p.m. May 28. The virtual event through Zoom is open to all faculty and staff on the U-M Ann Arbor campus. Registration is required, after which details will be shared for how to access the virtual symposium.

“XR fits in as a technology solution that can help bridge the gap between all online and all in-person courses to help create a sense of presence and collaboration for exploring spaces, designs, and performances that feel more like the students are there together,” said Jeremy Nelson, director of the XR Initiative. “There are opportunities with 360 video to create immersion, as well as 3-D graphics-based VR and AR.”

The event will be led by several faculty who already have incorporated XR technologies into courses. Some topics and presenters include:

  • Interaction Design with and for XR Technologies — Michael Nebeling, assistant professor of information, School of Information; assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering.
  • Empathy! (Empathy?) in the XR Classroom — Sara Blair, Patricia S. Yaeger Collegiate Professor of English Language and Literature, and professor of English language and literature, LSA; and vice provost for academic and faculty affairs, Office of the Provost.
  • Simulations for Nursing/Medicine — Michelle Aebersold, clinical professor of nursing, School of Nursing; clinical associate professor of information, School of Information.
  • Prototyping in Engineering — Joanna Millunchick, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor; professor of materials science and engineering, and associate dean for undergraduate education, College of Engineering.
  • Creativity and Performance in XR — Anıl Çamcı, assistant professor of music, School of Music, Theatre & Dance.
  • Diversity Equity & Inclusion in the XR Classroom — Lisa Nakamura, Gwendolyn Calvert Baker Collegiate Professor of American Culture and Screen Arts, professor of film, television and media, of English language and literature, of American culture, and of women’s studies, and director of the Digital Studies Institute, LSA.
  • Framing the Fit of XR in Learning Environments — Chris Quintana, associate professor of education, School of Education.

Nelson said faculty only need to have an interest in using XR technologies with no prior experience required. They will have a chance to brainstorm about specific learning goals and how those might be enhanced by virtual, augmented or mixed reality.

The three-year-funded XR initiative was announced in the fall to leverage emerging XR technologies to strengthen the quality of a U-M education, cultivate an interdisciplinary scholarly community of practice, and enhance a nationwide network for academic innovation.

For the last nine months the XR team in the Center for Academic Innovation has been offering programming to encourage use of the technology, including awarding six XR Innovation fund projects, which have been bolstered by the hiring of new XR developers.

“We have put together our project plans and started storyboarding and prototyping,” Nelson said. “In particular, the XR Physics lab is one example that would fit right into this symposium. I wish we had already built this before COVID-19, as it would have been perfect.”

The XR Physics Lab, led by Thomas Schwarz, associate professor of physics, LSA, is testing the viability of the XR platform for pedagogy in a physics laboratory course.

Through what is being called MiXR Studios, Nelson also debuted a new podcast this week about the world of Extended Reality. His first guest was Michael Nebeling, the center’s XR Innovator-In-Residence.

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