Chancellor’s Chair – Martin Danahay

Head shot of Martin Danahay

Bodily Presence in 3D Pedagogical Spaces

Martin Danahay, a professor in the Department of English, is working toward putting Brock at the forefront of 3D pedagogy research and teaching.

With support from a 2018 Chancellor’s Chair for Teaching Excellence award, Danahay will use cutting-edge 3D virtual reality hardware and software to identify best practices for online discussion-based courses in a 3D environment. The study will evaluate the impact of 3D technology in creating bodily presence on teacher and student interactions. It will also focus on participants’ evaluation of 3D space learning outcomes in contrast to interactions in Sakai Forums.

Danahay, who was Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities from 2009-12, says the project is inspired by his desire to create a sense of community in courses, whether in real-time in a classroom or online.

“The technology promises to enhance online teaching presence which has proven crucial in online education,” he says. “The ability to represent bodily image in 3D environments is evolving rapidly, largely thanks to developments in online gaming.”

Danahay is getting to work quickly to build a 3D classroom space in cooperation with BioLinc-based Xpert VR, a company that specializes in virtual environment simulations. He will also work in collaboration with the Center for Digital Humanities, Maker Space in the library, and the Generator at One in making the 3D space accessible to students. Student research assistants from the Centre for Digital Humanities (CDH) GAME program will work alongside the experts to develop a 3D pedagogical space in VR Chat that will be accessed by wearing Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets.

Danahay will roll out a test case that will involve a group of students from his ENGL3P90 Lifewriting course. The students will spend half a semester meeting in the 3D space for an online discussion and half the semester using Sakai Forum postings for discussion.

The students will be asked to evaluate the course with particular attention to gathering feedback about social and teaching presence — the level of interaction with students and teacher.

Danahay says the qualitative data will provide a benchmark for the design and implementation of future 3D pedagogical spaces in a number of disciplines.

“The 3D classroom space and equipment used in the course will also be made available to all Brock faculty interested in exploring the possibilities of 3D online pedagogy. Given the increased ability to manipulate objects in 3D environments, there are exciting new pedagogical practices possible across all disciplines.”

Carol Merriam, Dean, Faculty of Humanities, says the project fits nicely with the digital directions that some Humanities research and teaching has been taking in recent years.

“The project is exciting and innovative and will give students experiences not previously available. Professor Danahay’s work will set an example and probably bring several of his colleagues to his door with questions about implementing similar approaches in their own classroom environments.”