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Developing inclusive AR and VR learning

Inclusive Design student exploring VR prototype

The primary aim of this project is to use consumer-level virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies and other existing remote learning tools to include remotely located students in hands-on design prototyping.

This past summer, graduate students in Art, Design, and Communication and the Cognitive Semiotics Lab at OCAD U explored various ways to use AR/VR technologies in their learning and design/prototyping process. This included a presentation on inclusive design given to undergraduate students at Ontario Tech, where they learned about inclusive design opportunities and process. Some of these students went on to use VR technology to expand on an inclusive design project – a multisensory globe for blind and low vision readers, by Uttara Ghodke, a graduate of the Inclusive Design program and recipient of the last year’s president’s award.  

In addition, online and in-person workshops, learning resources and support/mentorship on AR/VR prototyping with Unity, a software for VR and AR content development, were provided by team members at Ontario Tech. 

Why is this important? Online education aims to include students regardless of their geographic locations, as long as they have internet connections and compatible hardware. It can make education more accessible and inclusive for students with diverse learning needs. In addition, reducing the requirement to travel to a physical location for classes can make online education more cost-effective for students and universities.

Within the context of design education, online students miss out on crucial hands-on prototyping experiences that on-campus students benefit from. In a typical course that includes a focus on design prototyping, for example, students engage in 3D printing, laser cutting and shop fabrication. Students are frequently involved in testing and evaluating each design iteration, requiring them to interact with and manipulate physical prototypes.

While online students may be able to present some aspects of their physical prototypes through video-conferencing and 3D CAD models, many remotely located classmates are not able to touch, feel and manipulate the physical prototypes, as designed. As a result, online design students are excluded from many hands-on aspects of design education. This project aims to address this gap. 

The team is planning to nurture additional collaborative communication between students in the classes at Ontario Tech and OCAD U. For example, inclusive design students will further explore how VR/AR and other remote learning tools may enhance hands-on design prototyping experience in Lab 1: Design Opportunities.