Virtual Reality: Innovation in Open Education

Virtual Reality: Innovation in Open Education

Photo by mentatdgt from Pexels, Public Domain

Editor’s note: This is a guest blog post by Margherita Berti, a doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona, and the creator of the open educational resource website Italian Open Education.

As the awareness about open educational resources, tools, and practices increases, instructors, researchers, and educational technologists are exploring innovative ways to promote language education. This is especially the case for Italian Open Education, a website that offers a collection of openly-licensed and free-to-use 360-degree virtual reality videos for Italian learners and teachers.

As a researcher and language educator, I chose to develop Italian Open Education to support the Open Education Movement and to supplement current foreign language textbooks with innovative and dynamic pedagogical materials. Today’s technological advances have made virtual reality extremely accessible, allowing language learners to be immersed in three-dimensional and seemingly real environments generated by the use of special electronic equipment (e.g., smartphones, viewers, headsets, etc.).

To create such resources, I first recorded 360-degree videos in Italian locations that represent everyday environments which students might encounter, however not critically reflect on, in the language textbook. Some examples include a plaza, a street, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a mall, etc. (permission to record the videos was granted by owners of inside spaces). After the recordings took place, I uploaded the videos to YouTube and licensed them under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 license. The Italian Open Education platform was then developed on WordPress, where all the 360-degree virtual reality videos are gathered and can be used freely.

The objective of this project is to offer new cutting-edge pedagogical resources which allow Italian language learners to be virtually placed in various Italian settings that might be inaccessible due to financial or geographical constraints. Since most students are not able to study abroad, the use of openly-licensed 360-degree virtual reality videos in the language classroom gives learners equal access to authentic environments representing the target country.

By sharing free-to-use, high-quality and innovative pedagogical materials with teachers and learners, I advocate for the Open Education Movement and aim to encourage administrators and language educators to implement new and dynamic open educational resources in their own language classrooms.

Margherita Berti is a doctoral student in Second Language Acquisition and Teaching (SLAT) at the University of Arizona and holds a master’s degree in Linguistics/Teaching English as a Second Language from Indiana State University. She teaches undergraduate Italian courses and has over three years of experience in language teaching at the university level in Italian, Spanish and ESL. Her research specialization resides at the intersection of intercultural competence, educational technology, and curriculum and L2 content development..

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