Udacity Education Project (VR)

This Udacity VR Showcase project is a sample of what education may look like in VR. The student is given stations that introduce a lesson concept and reinforce it through interaction, somewhat like a museum exhibit. VR is allowing for the gamification of education in exciting ways.

Story of the process

You don’t really have an appreciation of how much time goes into that last 10% of any project until you are faced with completing it yourself. At first the scope of what I wanted to accomplish did not seem to daunting. I eventually spent many more hours on this then I thought I would. Some was for things that ultimately did not fit into the final product.

BTW this is a continuation of my work with the Udacity Nano degree.

Persona

The intended end user of this project is a student, any skill level, someone that is in the position of learning through lecture. This helps define some of the requirements this application of VR must uphold. I am by no expert and only a student my self. Some thing that I have observed are the following requirements. Attention needs to be maintained and VR would allow for engagement that helps maintain that attention. Retention comes from reinforcement of lessons and the ability to take notes that rekindle memories of those lessons.

These takeaways are what influenced the design of this project. VR allows us to take lessons beyond observance experiences, utilize virtual space to create memories, and take advantage of its virtual representation of physical space.

This means the student needs to be able to take notes, instead of making it a tradition paper notebook lets take advantage of digital assets. They also need a way to reinforce the lesson, lets allow them get their virtual hands dirty and interact with the lessons playing with the virtual props themselves.

Design

With the user requirements set its time to layout some design ideas. In the spirit of the work and to be a little self serving I picked the theme of game design. As this is just an example I wanted to keep the lesson information light, 5 - 7 minuets max to through the whole thing.

These are some sketches that were done.

The field notebook that was eventually dropped. It was to complicated for the cardboard platform in this application. Originally the user had an interface to the notebook that would show them the lessons they went to and what was saved. The save functionality was kept but moved directly to the station interfaces with the saved objects placed in the mind palace.

Originally each station was a little diorama on a pedestal that the user could interact with. From this to the final product you can see the idea changed drastically. I was trying to hard to think of an interface or box to put the lesson into, in this case on top of a pedestal.

I had implemented pedestals for each station, but they were eventually dropped.

Sometimes you must ask yourself if the idea is just an exercise in your abilities. What I mean by that is in the original version of the meshes station I was going to show a full pyramid of vertices’s the student could choose from. This turned out to be impractical, complicated, and just an idea I hung on to to prove that I could actually figure it out. This was changed to the more effective rotated cube in the final video.

The least changed was the sound station.

User Testing

Aside from the user testing feedback to the questions that I asked in line with my last project, see my write up on Puzzler, I also received feedback that drastically changed the design of the color station and mesh station. What I thought would be cool is not necessarily most effective.

The user had preconceived notions based on past experiences of physical interactions with objects in a space that looked similar to the stations I created. This meant the way I would have approached interacting with the physical space are not translated to those expectations other users may have. This required me to redesign the lesson in a way that was more intuitive to the user. Sticking with familiar and already learned elements of control like sliders and buttons, I was able to guide the user through the lesson. The added benefit of animating these controls to a voice track describing what they did helped as well.

The color station is what brought about this realization that the stations may be to complicated. The person having learned the gaze pointer went to select the lights themselves and ignore the panel in front of them, which is totally understandable. They had the instinct to reach out and touch the lights to manipulate them.

This is VR, we can interact with objects directly bringing you closer to the lesson material. I was trying to force them to pay attention to an interface on the pedestal when they really just want to manipulate the light. They are supposed to get good at the lesson material not interfaces.

Here the interface is simplified and the lesson material presentation is within your field of view.

Self administered testing is not easy to get right but I think I’m getting a better feel for it. This project meant focusing on input decisions and taxing the users cognitive abilities. Each type of input system has its own set of designing considerations. This project utilized just a single touch input with gaze pointer on the screen. Input required simple yet effective interactions that did not require to much head movement making them comfortable to look around and get feedback to within the users FOV.

Conclusion

Don’t be afraid to cut things out of your final product. It may actually make it a better piece in the end. If I had included the full notebook I originally wanted too, the user would have been overwhelmed and lost. Just because you think it’s cool doesn’t mean its practical.

Familiar spaces and the way you approach them is not the same as the other person. No two people will run through non linear work flows the same. To teach the user a new work flow break the non linear system into small linear scenarios using learned interactions and build up to the more complicated ones. Guide them through and to the end goal.

Education in VR has promise. It also needs to be approached in stages to what platform you are developing for. If application design is considered properly platform and content will not be limiting factors to blame for a poor experience. Showcasing the color and mesh lessons still came across the way I wanted to in their material. It was the interface design that needed to be considered for the platform. The proof was that this platform can make an engaging and memorable experience to learn the material in.

Take aways

Link to additional work

Check back on my web site for future work.
TheGreatPissant.com

-Jim