Our Virtual Reality Journey

So I’ve been looking forward to this for aaaages !! (Since 2016 to be exact)

In last year’s budget (2017 – 2018) we decided to put a small pot of the e-learning money aside for small scale Virtual Reality (VR) to be trialed with 1 group of students over a full academic year (2018 – 2019), starting with a 360 camera and then working our way up to headsets.

After talks with other digital and e-learning professionals, based on previous work and shared best practice from European projects, we sourced a 360 degree camera which was cost effective – lowest price for best recording. As the camera had to be flexible enough to work with the e-learning team, students and teachers – it had to be easy to use and the 360 video/images stitch themselves, rather than having to learn and understand another software package to stitch it all together. From here we put the tester footage into our video platform. After looking into this as a stand alone 360 video for students to review online, it didn’t seem to be much different than using a standard video. Though in hindsight this could be due to ineffective application, as it was a tester. So we wanted to explore using 360 video/photos as an immersive experience, with interactions.

To do this we needed to create interactivity and have an immersive way for students to experience the packages. We set our sights on wireless headsets for ease of use, which can be used online and offline, so we waited for the right device to come along. Which we left to the last minute, admittedly, as we heard about the Occulus Go coming out in May/June 2018.

In the meantime this amazing thing happened, in early 2018 with the up and coming T-levels, which as a college we are involved with (find out more here) we realised we’d like to work with Industry to get the best for the students. As well as get them involved in something a bit different with the Virtual Reality. However we wouldn’t be able to do this without a full time person working on the project. So we took a punt and won a bid from the AoC (Association of Colleges) funded by the ETF (Education Training Foundation) to help fund a full time person to work on it. The title is ‘Using VR to enhance Land-based Skills’ and the premise is to involve employers in the curriculum, and the VR offered a new take of how to involve them for the up and coming T-levels. This meant that we could widen the scope through the areas involved to be Agriculture, Equine and Sportsturf, rather than just one class from one area as there is a full time person working on it to co-ordinate. Keep your eyes peeled for the full report on that and the impact in March 2019 from the OTLA Phase 3 site.

As there was a lot going on pre-project I thought it’d be good to share everything learnt about VR so far as a checklist you can apply to your own institutes:

Keep it simple: 


  • Think of your audience – who will be using it? Tutors, students an e-learning team?
  • What technical skills will they need?
  • Is it a simple UI (end user and creator)?
  • Can it be used across different devices?


  • Does it need to be wireless? – Most places seem to have fallen into a trap of being stuck with wires when they needed wireless devices.
  • Does it work offline?
  • What is it powering?
  • Is it compatible with your institutes systems? Does it need to be?
  • Can it be used via an app?

Cost Effective:

  • Don’t go for the most expensive – this might not be the best for your institute! (Gaming kit is brilliant, but might not work for you)
  • Will it last?
  • Does it do what you want?

Plan it:

  • How will it be used? (student, staff, e-learning team)
  • Strategy for the implementation (Practically)
  • Strategy for the implementation (Pedagogy)
  • Consolidated approach


  • Talk to peers – sharing best practice with others is key – don’t be scared to share.
  • Consolidate information from other projects you may have run (both teaching/learning and technical based) There is a wealth of information which you may not realise relates but does!

For most general FE Colleges or HE institutes this may already be second nature, but as a Land-based FE and HE institute which does not have an IT or media lead curriculum, this has been a massive breakthrough.

~ LP




This year myself and a colleague attended CanvasCon at the Barbican Centre in London. Arrival and registration were pretty seamless, and it also helped that we got a Swag bag full of goodies before heading off to the Keynote:



Speakers: Kenny Nicholl & Jared Stein (Instructure) Alex Beard (Teach For All)

All the keynotes throughout the day were inspirational, from the morning Kenny telling us about new and upcoming improvements to Canvas to Jared pointing out that the little and often approach is something which has the biggest impact, while giving tangible case studies to feedback to tutors, was brilliant. In the afternoon Alex Beard went over the different learning environments over the world and what the future holds, and how we can make it better. These Keynotes were all inspirational in their own way and set up tone for the rest of the sessions which followed.

For the seminar side of the day there were 5 streams to choose from, which were: . As I’m very keen on understanding the students learning experience and helping them progress, I chose mainly to stay with the HE and Learner experience based sessions. So for those who chose other options, their experience will have been different to some degree.

kingston University, Canvas and Capturing the student voice:

Speakers: Ian Haugh (Explorance) & Dr. Tim Linsey (Kingston University)

They used a system called Blue from Explorance which was used to create their MEQs as an online format.  This system integrated with their own inhouse systems with manual uploads (authorisation and SIS) while also integrating into Canvas as an LTI tool to give a seamless UI for the students.

This acted as a reporting system for their MEQs and sent out a report to the students and staff, which could be aggregated to any level, to drill down for the information. This online version of the MEQs lead to a feedback loop which meant that students could discuss their views and feedback before the end of the module so that they had the opportunity to see the impact their feedback was having.

Overall the session was a great overview to see how other institutes collect their data and how they act upon the student feedback to make effective changes to their curriculum delivery.


Cloud Innovation Trends n Education presented by Amazon Web Services (AWS):

Speakers: Paul Grist (AWS)

This was slightly opening in regards to the up and coming trends in education. There was the interesting example of Amazon Go shops, which essentially get rid of the need for tills, these shops are only meant as model show casing stores currently, you can find out more here.

The trends themselves in regards to education can be summarised as:

Machine learning tools and data Warehouses – predicting achievement, student/staff retention and support.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) – tailored learning through intelligent direction and pattern finding, which can then show and flag challenges such as retention, to allow for earlier intervention.

Voice recognition – personalisation of learning and an organisational tool for learners linking back to AI, think Alexa/Cortana/Siri.

Speech to text/text to speech – organisational tool for learners for note taking, or list making.

Chat bots – for general FAQs to streamline and make the most of organisations and employees time, an example given was a chatbot for the NHS which managed to deal with 40% of the call volume they had on a certain topic, by recognising and being able to answer the general FAQs (what time is the service available etc).

The impact on education could be immense, but then so could the budget, and with anything involving the idea of a connective campus the issues around GDPR need to be taken into account.


Pull Based Learning: How Assignments in CNAvas Can Enable Interaction Between Instructor, Students and Content.

Speaker: Tobe Baeyens (Erasmushogeschool Brussels).

As an institute we are now in the second year of using Canvas, but realistically are in our first full year of using it with everyone. We did a staged release and an intensive training programme to make it easier for the tutors to adjust to. So we have a lot of experience using Canvas assignments.

Though this session was not quite what I thought it would be, the speaker’s enthusiasm and ideas were brilliant. Their idea of using a constructive alignment (John Biggs) for the assignments, made complete sense in a way which we hadn’t thought of before. Instead of the assignment just being constructively aligned within the course as a whole, it opened up the idea of having everything to do with that assignment in one place. So all the tasks associated with the assignment to go into the main assignment box as well as the learning outcomes, rather than being scattered about in the Canvas site structure itself. This methodology gives more context to the student for why they are doing certain tasks, it becomes a pull of information from the student rather than a push of information to the student.

This constructivist pull technique is something I’ll definitely be promoting within my future Canvas tutor training sessions.


Blended Nan-Courses n Exponential Technologies

Speakers: Mukul KumarMukul Kumar (Hult International Business School)

To be honest, for me I should have chosen another session. The talk itself was great and to see the journey HULT had made was fantastic, it’s great to see how we encourage blended learning and online learning at Myerscough college is reflected in other people’s practices.  But the thing is, we’re already at that point, so for me I didn’t learn anything new in regards to blended learning and course design – except that a nano course = 1 credit. However the people around me seemed to learn a lot and really engaged with the speaker, which is brilliant as it is always great to see the different places people are within their own LMS/VLE journey and how we can help support each other on those journeys.

The Quantified Student (Personalised Learning Analytics):

Speakers: Eric Slaats & Martijn Ruissen (Fontys University of Applied Sciences, School of ICT)

The most memorable quote from this closing session was that “Education will be disrupted by technology driven change”. I remember last year when these guys presented and I found it revolutionary in it’s teaching and learning process, and leant more towards the teacher as a facilitator and student driven curriculum and strength based design. Though this would be considered easier for them in regards to the fact their curriculum area is IT and IT design it was Just so refreshing to see a new take on OTLA! Last year it was what they were doing and how, while this year it was interesting to see how they were recording their data (personal data such as fitbit info, light levels, reoccurring incremental assignments/feedback, student recorded feedback etc) and how this meant they could tailor the learning to individual (for each of the 300 students). I will continue to follow this educational experiment as it progresses and look forward to hearing the results and how they report it.

This year CanvasCon, for me, was all about the learning journey, but then again I picked that stream. Someone else may have had a completely different experience to take away but it was definitely a positive from a case studies and shared practice perspective.

If there’s one thing to improve on, reflecting back, is that the organisation of the event could have been better. All the keynote speakers and food were on the lower levels, but then you had to go up to Floor 4 and across a bridge to get to different breakout sessions. The app wasn’t updated so we found a few people on the 1,2,3 floors looking for things that weren’t there, and looked as lost as we felt. HOWEVER they have recently moved building and getting used to the new surrounding and catering for that many people would never be smooth the first time around, and as the content is brilliant, a few mishaps here and there while settling in can be easily forgiven. After all it’s about feeling free to experiment with new things and the journey that takes us there, so I’m very much looking forward to next year!