The Latest in Immersive Telepresence to Support Shared Engineering Education

Work in Progress: In this paper we outline our initial findings on the potential of state-of-the-art immersive telepresence to support the practical and collaborative group work element in our remotely taught international degree programmes, specifically a Software Engineering Masters degree. Whilst we adopt widely used distance learning approaches generally, the challenge remains in supporting live synchronous practical sessions that depend heavily, on one hand, on the expertise of the educator and their presence in the shared learning environment, and on the other hand, the students’ active engagement within teams partially distributed physically. Any technical progress in improving the “sense of presence” can radically renew our conceptions of (distance) teaching and learning, maybe also in terms of the 21st century skills or even those that we are not yet aware of. The question to address is that if sufficiently high-fidelity, and unintrusive, immersive capture technology is used then how could this be game changing in this area? Previous work using similar immersive technology has failed to achieve the level of quality or scope necessary, however, the past 4 years have seen significant progress in the hardware and algorithms required. To support our degree programmes we have designed and developed a custom live 3D capture system for a higher fidelity immersive experience targeting small groups of 2-6 people collaborating both locally and remotely. Here we will present the system and scope out some of the initial plausible affordances for education through the Conceive, Design, Implement, Operate (CDIO)-model. We focus on the affordances offered by the technology to support the learning of the much needed competences of communication, collaboration, critical thinking and creativity which are very challenging to enhance by conventional, content delivery oriented distance learning approaches.

Pope, N., Apiola, M., Salmento, H., Islam, N., Lahti, M. & Sutinen, E. (2020). The Latest in Immersive Telepresence to Support Shared Engineering Education. Accepted manuscript.