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Digital Education

Virtual Reality Musical

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Virtual Reality has been making its rounds through medical school, engineering, and even underwater. And now, it’s headed towards the Arts department. At the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) in Georgia, the students are making history by becoming one of the first institutions to use virtual reality for a musical. Recently, they showcased their first VR musical, bringing together 116 from 14 unique programs over a course of 20 weeks to create their 360-degree story. “Say It With Music.”

The film was shown as a part of a VR showcase at the recent Savannah Film Festival in which students were able to watch a snippet from different vendors. The music for the movie was motivated by Irving Berlin’s composition, “Say It With Music.” The plot follows an unexpected romantic connection between two servers at a restaurant. Viewers get to use sound cues to continue with the narrative and can experience a 360-degree perspective that showcases the multiple plotlines best.

Even though VR devices are still not entirely common, this institution already has experience with it in the previous year. The SCAD sent out 10,000 pairs of Google Cardboard, a VR set by Google, to students who had already been accepted to the institution, and to potential students, to allow them to visit the campus virtually. They worked with the Collaborative Learning Center (CLC) for these projects, bringing together students from all fields, such as film, animation, dramatic writing, and production design. The CLC brings professionals into student work to challenge them with real-world challenges. For example, the students SCAD have created advertising campaigns and prototype plans for NASA, BMW, Google, and Disney.

The VR musical that the school produced is a first in a line of stories they are going to produce. Michael Chaney, a professor of film and television, explained that: “We consulted with the leading pioneers in this industry and we ourselves are becoming pioneers.”

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From 2D Designs to 3D Models

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Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) department of Design, Housing and Merchandising has created an innovative club to help its students visualize their designs in 3D. With recent advancements in virtual and augmented reality, OSU has created their first Mixed Reality Lab which incorporates Oculus, Razer, Samsung, and HTC VR technology inside of a 1,600 square-foot facility. “I was just introduced to 3D printing this semester” says Ashtyn Shugart, an interior design student.

VR headsets combined with 3D printers allows the students to transform their 2D designs into real physical objects making it easier to test the flaws or physics of their product.  One student even expresses their gratitude at how simple it is to find the center of gravity of their product or explain a prototype using models of their product. Dr. Chandrasekera, an assistant professor of the department of Design, Housing, and Merchandising foresees practical uses of this technology in the workplace. “Our students will have an advantage, because they will be familiar with not only what these tools are, but also with their place in the design workflow” says Dr. Chandrasekera.

Since 2015, the lab has high hopes for further expansion and have already started collaborating with other departments such as Human Development and Family Sciences, Graphic Design, Business, and Mathematics. This form of collaboration also prepares the students for real world working environments where they will have to collaborate with other departments in order to complete a task.

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Technology Can Help Expand Creativity

The next generation of college students, Generation Z, has had technology as part of their life since birth. It should come to no surprise that 93 percent of students in an Adobe Education survey said that technology in the classroom was essential for their career preparedness. Eighty-nine percent also believe that creativity will also be a big part of their success. Colleges are already preparing for the needs of Gen Z students with programs that combine creativity and technology. Technology in higher education can help expand creativity in higher education and one way is helping designers innovate through engineering.

Staff from Parsons School of Design has already started reaching out to show how technology can help with problem solving in art and design. Noelia Bautista made a music box that could communicate with a computer using the Arduino open-course computing platform, which in turn inspired her to study to be an interior designer. She said that by engaging in the iterative design process, as well as user testing, sketching, and prototyping, she was able to cultivate the skills needed to tackle a wide range of design challenges. Tech-filled spaces also encourage new ideas and collaboration. Clemson University works on a partnership with Adobe to open a digital studio in their library to create a teaching, training and collaborative environment. Adobe even gives access to students to the Adobe Digital Studio, which gives an open access earning space on the Creative Cloud to ensure that students get the best digital tools needed to succeed.

Technology creates an entirely new Artistic experience. Rochester Institute of Technology announced the launch of their MAGIC Spell Studios which is a new building dedicated to supporting game development, film and animation and other digital media. The ways that people engage with games and interactive content is rapidly changing and the industry is more multi-faceted than ever. The school of interactive games and media will challenge students to build into new horizons that expand into the ever changing industry.

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A Personal Assistant for Students

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“It’s not due yet. I still have time!” Says the majority of students on any college campus. That procrastination has really made students suffer by adding more stress to their lives as well as lower quality of work. Luckily there is a solution in the making. Avi Badwal and Chris Wessells have teamed up to help create “Insight” a mobile app. This app is a personal assistant app but with a twist. This app is targeted to help students succeed in the rigorous environment of college. The app claims to do this by tracking students personal schedules but also syncs to the school’s database and has a small artificial intelligence (A.I.) unit built in. Wessells states “Generic personal assistants aren’t very effective for our students, because they are not tied in with our Student Information System or our Constituent Relationship Management System. To do something more powerful, we connect Insight with those two systems.” The A.I. unit is used to give the student more targeted and personalized services based on their individual needs. The student would create a profile and set in what classes they are taking and what study habits they use. They can track class rosters, details, locations and instructors. The app can also show semester analytics such as how the student spends their time during the semester and gives feedback on academic performance based on the grade report.

With 100,000 completed tasks in the first year, the app is becoming the next best way for students to succeed in school. The app has features such as time tracker for personal and academic tasks, checking assignments, responses to notifications and an emotion tracker to help monitor stress levels throughout the quarter.

While the app is only for University of San Diego students using iOS, this app may be coming to all major campuses soon.

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iSee, An App Designed to Revolutionize Campus Counseling Centers

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Researchers at Michigan State University (MSU) are hoping to help on-campus counseling centers with their new smartphone app called iSee. Statistics show that a little less than half of the students on campus report feelings of depressing but only one third of those students actively seek treatment. For those who do seek counseling, scheduling an appointment could take upwards of three weeks to a month before the student is finally able to get in touch with the counselor. Zhang, the lead project manager, hopes to streamline this process while creating a stronger relationship between the students and the counselors.

The app takes advantage of a smartphone’s built-in GPS, motion tracking, and microphone as well as a wristband to record a student’s physical activity, social interaction, and sleeping behaviors. This data can be used by the counselors to quickly get to know their patients and adjust treatment as the data is continuously updated. Even if the student isn’t actively seeing a counselor, they will be able to access the apps self-care which will guide them through meditation, play soothing music, and even help them form better sleeping habits.

So far, iSee is still in the process of integrating all the different functionality from both the smartphones and wristbands to the app. The team is seeing steady progress with plans of testing the app on the MSU campus and eventually deploy the app to all campus counseling centers. iSee’s success will help counseling centers increasing demands for mental health services.

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