Virtual reality course brings Asia to students

Inspired by the late Steve Jobs’ commencement speech at Stanford University where he shared how auditing a calligraphy class in college inspired him years later to add diverse fonts to Apple computers, we set out to visit classes around campus that make us think differently about what it means to be educated. This is one in a series of drop-ins.

Students explored East Asia through virtual reality and online 360-degree videos of locations and cultural gems such as this video of Chinese panda bears. To see the video on Discovery Network’s YouTube Channel, click here.

You visit a panda bear conservation base in China. You explore a historic cave on South Jeju Island. And you get lost in Tokyo’s streets.

It sounds like a study abroad trip. But you can visit all these and more from the comfort of home thanks to a new online class centered on virtual reality. “Study and Travel East Asia through Virtual Reality (VR),” offered through the Asian Studies Program – part of the Steven J. Green School of International and Public Affairs, is the first course of its kind at FIU.

Using materials like VR glasses, smartphones and Youtube videos, students get to experience East Asia like never before. Students who may not be able to afford study abroad trips now have an opportunity to explore the region without breaking the bank and possibly prepare for a future trip to Asia.

“I want students to get a better understanding of what East Asia is and how real it is, how it works,” says Marcela Lopez-Bravo, who designed the course and taught it this past summer.

Students also read academic texts about topics such as East Asian architecture, history and city development. They engage with each other’s ideas through an online discussion forum Lopez-Bravo dubbed the “Tea Room.” Part of their discussion posts include looking up and sharing 360-degree videos (videos that allow viewers to explore the entire panoramic range of motion) that illustrate the…

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