Sunday, October 14, 2012

Advancing Online Education through New Technology

Technology is advancing at a rapid rate and our daily lives rely on much of this new technology.  We use it for business, to connect socially, and as an educational tool, but while the demand for technology is on the rise so is the need for greater utilization. Education is the cornerstone of civilization and community, and during this current economic and unemployment crisis we have the power to utilize our technology to advance peoples lives.   By combining the technology of the Microsoft Kinect and holographic virtual reality, we can take the 2-dimensional online education experience and augment it into our 3-dimensional world. 

Advanced technology is no longer a thing of science fiction.  Primarily used for video games the Microsoft Kinect uses "a highly innovative combination of cameras, microphones and software that turns your body into the video game controller."  (Crawford, n.d.) These combinations in conjunction with virtual reality or holographic technology can be used to help advance online education. 

As a throw back to the Holodeck of Star Trek, the device in question is called the Holoclass. By combining the functionality of the Microsoft Kinect with the illusionary realism of holographic technology, the student can step outside of a 2-dimensional box and into the 3-dimensional world of a physical classroom.

A study done by Abigail Hawkins and Charles Graham indicates that, "teachers in distance education had to assume a greater managerial or technical role in online learning environments than in traditional classrooms to prevent students from getting lost or forgotten." (2012)

While not every student wants the connectivity this could provide, some do, but are not able to relocate to the school they wish to attend.  The idea behind the Holoclass came from hearing complaints about students feeling disconnected in their current online platform. This got me thinking, what if we could virtually bring the classroom to them.  Imagine that the student could turn on their computer and have the classroom and those attending the class, get projected into the comfort of their own home. This would allow them to attend live lectures, ask questions in real time, and present work for critique in a live setting. It is "critical that teachers avoid the assumption that online learners are those who prefer less personal contact with instructors, are independent learners, have high motivation to learn, are self-disciplined and have high personal self-efficacy." (Hawkins and Graham, 2012) By bringing the classroom to them, they will not only get a sense of connectivity but  could also get time with their instructor not found in the traditional virtual platform.

This of course does not exclude those who want the anonymity that online offers.  If the student wishes not to attend live lectures, the instructor can prerecord a lecture that the student can access.  Like in video games, the student will act as the remote and interact with the material the instructor is presenting.  In regards to the Kinect technology used in video games, Eddie Wrenn (2012) says, "Instead of being tied to a controller, players could use their body to control the action in a myriad ways - for instance virtually pulling back a bow and arrow, or dancing as the console rated how good (or bad) you are at copying on-screen celebrities."  This idea could be translated into the educational system.

Hearing there is a disconnect between my class and myself, can be unnerving. Since reaching every student is not possible in the online world, the Holoclass is a way to offer more connectivity.  Of course, as advanced as the technology is, it is still up to the individual to access the materials given to them.  During the discussion of this technology Rori Paul mentioned, "From being able to "be in" the classroom for a more interactive experience to being in a meeting to "feeling" an experience while remaining safe from its true effects allows us another level of understanding and interaction we currently do not have."

The reach of this technology can and should reach more than just those seeking a degree in higher education, but for the moment the focus is just on them.  With the unemployment rate staying high, many people are seeking degrees to better themselves or compete in the job market, but are finding cost to be preventative. If we fold this into the cost of attendance and give more people accessibility to the classroom experience, college can become a reality for everyone.

Crawford, S. (n.d.). HowStuffWorks "How Microsoft Kinect Works". HowStuffWorks "Electronics". Retrieved from

Fahey, M. (2010, November 3). Holographic Technology Is the Next 3D. Kotaku, the Gamer’s Guide. Retrieved from

Wagstaff, K. (2011, October 20). Microsoft Comes Closer to Star Trek’s Holodeck With Its Holodesk | Techland | Techland | News and reviews from the world of gadgets, gear, apps and the web | Retrieved from

Wagstaff, K. (2012, August 16). The Technology Behind the Tupac Hologram at Coachella | Techland | Techland | News and reviews from the world of gadgets, gear, apps and the web | Retrieved from

Wrenn, E. (2012, September 12). Microsoft files patent to bring Star Trek's 'Holodeck' to future Xbox consoles | Mail Online. Home | Mail Online. Retrieved from

Image References

Steele, M. (2008, July 1). HowStuffWorks "How Holographic Environments Will Work". HowStuffWorks "Electronics". Retrieved from

Wrenn, E. (n.d.). Microsoft files patent to bring Star Trek's 'Holodeck' to future Xbox consoles | Mail Online. Home | Mail Online. Retrieved from

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