Creating a Virtual Community for Virtual Reality - 2020 Virtual DLF Forum

Creating a Virtual Community for Virtual Reality - 2020 Virtual DLF Forum

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Hi, I'm Emily Sherwood. I'm Director of  Digital Scholarship at the University   of Rochester River Campus Libraries, and I took  over the Studio X project in February of 2019.    Hi, I'm Maurini Strub, Director of  Organizational Performance and User Engagement.  

I joined the Studio X team as a consultant  on assessment methods and tools.    Hi, I'm Meaghan Moody. I'm the Immersive  Technologies Librarian for the Digital Scholarship   team, and I joined the team just when the pandemic  started at the end of February. Hi, my name is  

Sebastian. I'm currently an Immersive Technologies  Developer for the Karp Library Fellowship program.   Before that, I worked on VR and AR at the  Digital Scholarship Lab for about a year.    Hello, thank you for joining us today for our  panel presentation Creating a Virtual Community   for Virtual Reality: Challenges and Solutions  for Program Building During a Pandemic . We're  

thrilled to be here with you today at the  Digital Library Federation Fall Forum.   Today we're going to talk about the history of  Studio X, the role of assessment, creating spaces   and programs, and the goals and challenges that  we have faced due to all of the things of 2020.    So I would like to start today by defining  some terms. As the hub for extended reality   at University of Rochester Studio X fosters a  community of cross disciplinary collaboration,   exploration and peer to peer learning that lowers  barriers to entry inspires experimentation,   and drives innovative research and  teaching with immersive technologies.   Extended reality (XR) is an umbrella term for  real and virtual combined environments. Augmented  

reality or AR places digital content within the  real world. So you might want to think about games   like Pokemon Go. Or say you want to purchase  a pair of glasses and use an app on your phone   to virtually try on the glasses to see how they  look before you purchase them. Virtual Reality or  

VR is more immersive. Rather than digital content  entering our reality, we enter the digital space   where we can engage with virtual worlds create  art, interact with other people, etc. And then   mixed reality is a merging of the two, where the  physical and the digital coexist and interact.    One of the reasons that it made sense to explore  a unified approach to supporting XR efforts at the   University of Rochester was that we already  had a large number of researchers actively   working in the field, including faculty from  the Medical Center, Eastman School of Music,   Warner School of Education, and the College  of Art, Science, and Engineering. Building a  

central programming space for support also made  sense because of the strong interdisciplinary   nature of XR. Just like digital scholarship, XR  requires expertise from multiple disciplines,   which has been recognized by our administration  and faculty. For example, as part of a National   Science Foundation grant, we have 62 doctoral  students from electrical and computer engineering,   optics, biomedical engineering, brain and  cognitive science, computer science, and   neuroscience, who will be trained in the skills  needed to advance XR technologies. This grant   reimagines the traditional, hyper-focused, and  siloed nature of doctoral studies by acknowledging   that these emerging areas of research require a  broader perspective and a range of expertise.    In order to understand what we might  need in a centralized program for XR,   we pulled together a steering committee comprised  of stakeholders from across the college.   That group started planning for  a dedicated space and program.  

Lauren Di Monte, now Associate Dean of Learning,  Research, and Digital Strategies, ran a series   of activities called design charrettes.  Essentially, she used designed thinking   and hands-on problem solving to surface user needs  around the physical requirements of the space,   and then use that information in order to create  a vision for the program. We held four charrette   sessions and engaged with 121 participants,  who told us they wanted a program that lowered   barriers to entry, facilitated interdisciplinary  work, supported peer to peer learning, and   included a space that was flexible, multi-purpose,  and future proof. This last one's challenging.   

When I think about the information that  came out of the functional program,   what I came to understand is that people  really wanted access. They wanted access   to space to work collaboratively, particularly  space that is welcoming to students and faculty   from across the college. They wanted access  to expertise from staff and from their peers   in ways that lower barriers to entry so that  they could readily participate in XR activities,   and they wanted access to technology, but with  the understanding that technology will change,   and we will need to update and maintain  it as the fields grows. The functional  

program that was created based on those design  charrettes included different types of spaces.   So the Salon is the heart of Studio X, its  purpose is to encourage exploration and learning.   It includes an open area with a mix of  tables and seating to promote collaboration   and informal interactions that will really help  foster a sense of community. The Innovation   Suite enables research intensive engagement and  learning. It accommodates larger interdisciplinary  

research teams and includes access to high  performance workstations and other specialized   equipment. There are four collaboration rooms that  will facilitate XR exploration and creation and   will be central to the work emerging out of Studio  X. For example, PhD students mentoring XR capstone   projects or groups working on class projects  for digital history or computer science courses   will be able to book these rooms for  team meetings and long-term project work.  

The Learning Hub supports formal and informal  hands-on learning. This flexible learning space   will host a range of workshops, classes, open  office hours, and showcase events. And of course,   there's a dedicated staff space that will allow  Studio X staff to work independently but in close   proximity to the students and faculty,  who may need access to their expertise.   And there will be six high end workstations for  individual exploration and project development.  

I took over the project for  Studio X in February of 2019.   Right away, I started meeting with stakeholders  and working with our team and advancement and   Alumni Relations on fundraising. The Digital  Scholarship team spent time thinking about   how we could expand our current expertise and  services to more fully support Studio X. And we   had a pretty tight deadline to get everything  up and running by the fall 2020. And despite a  

number of delays, and some of them very small,  we were mostly on track until March 2020.    Even when the pandemic hit, we held out hope  that things would be somewhat back to normal   by the end of May and construction could  begin. But of course, that didn't happen.   So now we look ahead to 2021 when we  will be able to realize the space.   But before then we have already  started building on the program.    Alright, let's dive into assessment.   

So looking at its etymology, we learned that  assessment or assess comes from Latin the past   participle of assidere, which means to sit beside.  Assessment is the scaffolding that sits beside us   when we're doing our jobs, especially during  decision making, and can provide a valuable   lens when we're trying to describe why we make  the choices that we do. Oftentimes, evaluation,   assessment, and research are used interchangeably.  But here's a quick defining distinction.  

Evaluation is judgmental, uses grading,  and focuses on achievement. It doesn't   necessarily explain why. Research takes attempts  to answer why but takes significantly more time,   uses control groups and control variations, and  provides evidence that can be broadly applied.   Assessment borrows from both practices, but it's  its own beast by being non-judgmental and being   used for improvement. Assessment informs  our functional program. What is a functional   program? It describes the requirements which  of the building, space, or program must satisfy   in order to support and enhance human activities.  They're also often referred to as design briefs,  

facility briefs, architectural programs, owner  statements of requirements, space needs analysis,   or simply programs. The programming process  seeks to answer the following questions:   What is the nature and scope of the problem?  What information is required to develop a   proper solution to the problem? How much  and what type of solution is required?   What solution will be needed in the next five to  ten years to continue to operate efficiently?    For those of you unfamiliar with participatory  design, it is an approach to design attempting   to actively involve all stakeholders in the  design process to help ensure that the finishing   result meets their needs and is usable. Here  at Rochester. We close the loop on assessment   by bringing the same users who helped us with  assessment back in and sharing results back out   with our community to not only close the loop,  but also as a check: Did we hear you correctly?   It's also the beginning of a conversation  we employ our users in the design of spaces   and programs, and I'd argue is one of the  early ways that we begin to build community   that has a sense of ownership, engagement,  and investment in library services.    While Studio X was in its planning stages,  I hadn't yet joined the organization,   but I've been involved in space programming  projects that have utilized these methods,   and I'm going to quickly cover many of these. Many  of these were used when Rochester was servicing  

user needs for this project, but please know  that this is by no means a comprehensive list.   But when it comes down to it, they re  basically some of my favorite methods.    When it comes to observations, observations can  be something as simple as a headcount to actually   recording what artifacts users have in  their physical spaces as they're doing work.   We also have interviews, which I'm  going to cover in the coming slides,   of which there's contextual inquiry, which  is studying users in their environment, where   they're actually doing the work. Another method  I like for interviews is called box pops short  

for voices of expression. They're basically 30  second to one minute single question interviews.   You've probably seen a variant of them on  late night talk shows, where they ask random   strangers questions in the middle of a city. When  it comes to focus groups, focus groups, or focus   conversations or interviews with larger groups of  people. Focus groups can take a range of formats,   and they range from forum like town halls, to  advisory groups, which are a specialized focus   group that have a much longer term commitment,  typically a year or more. Charrette design, which,   if you're unfamiliar with charrettes are short  collaborative meetings during which users can   talk through, collaborate, and sketch designs to  explore and share broad diversity of design ideas.   Those design ideas often surface articulated  and unarticulated needs. Another fan favorite  

is furniture fairs, which are kind of like  your local to you institutional trade show,   where users can come and try out furniture  solutions that we're going to deploy in the space.   Designers and project team members are  there to listen and capture what users   are saying about the furniture as well as  do some lightweight probing. Oftentimes,   there'll be a brief questionnaire soliciting  feedback about that items form and function.    When it comes to program needs, we do need some  gaps analysis, most recently with surveys or   questionnaires. And again, we'll get into that,  as well as interviews. One of my other favorite   tools to use are whiteboards, and whiteboards are  really informal way of engaging your community.  

One of the favorite prompts I like to use is: I  wish, I like, I wonder, where users are invited to   not only a prompt, but a prompt with a  graphical element to it to invite them,   and they're left with a marker. What's cool about  it is that not only do they leave their responses,   oftentimes you see dialogue between users, where  people will add to, or yes and, or say like,   No, but what about It's actually a really  fun thing to observe in a physical space.   Interviews we'll get to in a bit and  related to that contextual inquiry.   

When it came to the faculty interviews, when  Meaghan and Emily came to me about Studio X, the   very first thing I asked them to do before we met  was to identify the goals and needs of conducting   the survey. What did they most need to learn about  faculty behavior before we sat down to design   the questions? Because every question that we ask  should always lead back to those goals and needs.   In this case, their goals and needs were to  learn about faculty s current and aspirational   work with XR as well as the challenges they  encountered. When it comes to question order,   it's very much an art form, and it's also very  much like a relationship. So let's imagine a   scenario where you've gone to a dinner party  and you've been introduced to a new person.   As you're getting to know them, you don't jump  into the burning questions or the questions that   require intimacy or vulnerability. You're building  a relationship with that person, right? Similarly  

with your participants. So arranging the questions  from least intrusive or things that don't matter   as much as someone knows about you to the ones  that require vulnerability and demonstrating where   the participant may have gaps or insufficiencies  is critical. But more importantly, it's also   important for you as an interviewer to give visual  signals that what they're sharing is interesting.   And to be honest, it should be because you  initiated this conversation or interview.  

And just like all conversations, you  also don't want to end on a tough topic.   So you want to make sure that you wind down your  to your closing questions. In essence, deescalate   softer questions, so that the participant leaves  the experience with a positive affiliation towards   you and the project. One of my favorite ways to  close is to have an aspirational type question  

towards the end. For example, if there's one thing  that you could change, or one thing that you could   do to improve, oftentimes participants will come  back to me after the interview and say, You know,   I've been thinking a lot about that question,  and here's some additional thoughts I have on it,   which is great. When it comes to question  refinement, you want to always remember   language informality. Remember, an interview  is a conversation, not an interrogation.   I encourage you to read your questions out  loud before your interview date. If it doesn't   sound like a normal conversational speaking  voice, you need to probably rework it. Your   participant will notice, and it can often become  an interview barrier if language is too formal.  

You also want to design them so that they invite  dialog, right? Your goal is to invite dialogue   where your participant gets to the point where  they're volunteering information. You don't have   to actually ask because they're just as animated  about the topic. One of the ways that we can do   this is designing anticipatory probing questions.  Although, it can be hard to predict a participant   s response, you want to try to develop these  in advance. Many times, you won't need them.   People kind of like talking about themselves  and their work, but occasionally, you'll need   you'll get someone that you have to draw, and  it's nice to have these in your back pocket.   This is really relevant in face to face in virtual  environments. Oftentimes, people bury themselves  

behind the technology, and it actually adds an  additional barrier to people having a conversation   and initiating dialogue. So my advice to you is  ditch your laptop. Record your interview in two   ways: video and audio is fine, but also consider  using audio and just old school notes. One of my   low budget ways of transcribing audio that's been  recorded is to do a private upload to YouTube,   run their closed captioning on it, and then  download the closed captioning transcript. It's  

not perfect, but it gets enough of it that all I'm  doing is refining and tweaking the transcripts.   I introduced Meaghan to one of my favorite  methods for analyzing qualitative data:   affinity diagramming. It's a tool that's used  to organize related ideas, data, or facts into   distinct clusters, and if you've ever done card  sorting for web design it is very similar. Its   power is it allows you to become truly immersed in  all of your data collectively simultaneously. And  

I'm not going to lie, you either love it or hate  it as a method. It's a messy process, but the end   product is oh so worth it, so check it out if you  haven't heard of it before. When we first started   talking about Studio X, born out of perhaps my  own ignorance, I suggested that we include an   introduction to AR, VR, and XR. I knew that even  in library land we talk about these topics, but   I barely understood the distinction and wondered  about a user's understanding or clarity about the   topic. So I recommended that we start the  survey by creating a shared understanding   of the domain that we were talking about. We did  that by including introductory text about survey  

goals but also incorporating a video that would  not only explain concepts easily but to bring   a different level of engagement. At this point,  we're about three months into the pandemic, and I   was concerned about yet another survey with little  interaction or engaging content being dismissed   case in hand. When you design your survey, you  want to think ahead to the analysis portion.   Another thing that I encourage you to ditch  are the multiple selection choice options,   so you frequently see checkbox options. While  it's tempting to get as much feedback as you   can from your users, oftentimes, this type of tool  ends up obscuring a priority or a direction that   your users need by forcing them to make a choice  with a conventional multiple choice, where you   have only one choice to me, you can actually  help yourself on the back end for analysis.   

When it comes to asking the questions for  analysis, we structured the questionnaire/survey   by establishing a baseline of users experience  with XR. We started asking them about their   experiences with XR and their familiarity with  tools. We then moved on to questions about their   learning styles, and onto questions that ask them  to assess their future needs both near term and   long term for skilling up. We also provided  them with the opportunity to stay in touch.   We anticipated this survey being one form of  communication about Studio X that we could   build anticipation for the coming services. So the  option was twofold: based on the assumption that   if they were opting in, they were probably likely  excited about this project and would provide   us with a pool of people, who could be early  adopters or super users of the space, services,   and resources; and two possibly be potential  candidates for recruitment to larger focus groups.  

The last thing that we wanted that we discussed  as we created the survey was making sure that   we had enough responses. We weren't looking for  statistical significance. It wasn't research,   but just that we needed just enough information  to inform and help us prioritize our programming.   Here I advised over recruiting so multiple  channels and multiple calls to help meet   their targeted number of responses. Typically,  in surveys, we see response rates anywhere from  

eight to 30%. With 30% being a really strong  response rate. It's sad, I know. So meaning   their target responses would likely require  marketing or recruiting in multiple channels.   So I've touched on, on all of the  ways that we have used assessment   to kind of inform the design of  Studio X and the role of assessment.    Hi, this is Meaghan, Sebastian and I are  now going to discuss some goals, challenges,   and dare I say some opportunities of 2020.  Really what we're talking about here is   community building, getting buy in, and building  excitement all surrounding XR technologies at the   University of Rochester. These technologies  offer opportunities to explore, practice,   and learn a subject through multi-sensory  experiences that help deepen learning and   create opportunities for new discovery.  Yet, they're still very inaccessible,  

in that they're costly, have a steep learning  curve, and are sometimes seen as a novelty.   So in a lot of ways, they already inherently  present challenges to new users. But then   we add into the mix, the pandemic of 2020 that is  still unfolding. We are still trying to understand   its long term impact, and it's just adding another  fun layer of complexity to this mix. Nevertheless,   we would like to share some examples of the ways  in which we've been navigating this situation.   

But before I dive into that, let's first talk  about some factors that help shape a successful   XR program in general. So this EDUCAUSE/HP Campus  of the Future report came out in March of 2020.   The study was informed by 47 interviews with  deans, directors, librarians, instructional   designers, and other XR practitioners across  17 XR participating institutions in the US.   Here are some of their key findings. First, both  faculty and institutional leadership are critical  

to the success of XR deployment. This means active  XR research by faculty and really showcasing those   examples as well as having budgetary support  and encouragement from institutional leadership.   Next, an XR special initiative provides  time for experimentation and new ideas.   Dedicated staff such as myself  is necessary to support these   technologies and create a positive user  experience. XR projects are inherently   very multidisciplinary and require many different  perspectives and expertise. Centering the program   in a cross-unit space such as that of the library  really helps to facilitate that collaboration.  

Providing space and access to the technology  is key. The space is described in the report   as somewhat of a makerspace  combined with a computer lab.   Lastly, providing equal access for all students is  necessary. Again, these technologies are costly,   and it's really a matter of social equity. I  found this report to be particularly interesting,  

because these were all things we're attempting  to do at the University of Rochester.   It kind of reaffirmed my excitement  in being part of this program.   You may have noticed that I  bolded the last three points   because they are particularly difficult to  accomplish without having a physical space.    Which brings me to my next point, what  factors lead to a successful XR program   in 2020? Before the pandemic, when I was a newly  minted immersive technologies librarian, I sort of   saw all of these pieces that I just discussed on  the last slide falling into place. I joined the  

University of Rochester at the end of February,  and then the pandemic really started to set in.   We were all just thrown this curveball  - I know I'm putting it extremely and   insufficient lightly - that is 2020. Things  are very different. Work and life have changed.   We're all working through a variety  of crises. We're worried, angry,  

and very, very tired. So how do you navigate  this? How do you get people excited about   technologies that are still pretty inaccessible?  And how do you do virtual virtual reality? Well,   I get really excited about the possibilities of X,  but I can't say I was prepared to be this virtual.   So one way to approach the situation was for us  to radically shift our perspectives, which was   admittedly at first a little hard, but then also  a major relief. We wouldn't have our physical   communal hub for XR, teaching, research  and learning, but we could continue   with our community building and programming.  Studio X is more than just a physical space,   and this year became what we're  referring to as the year of the test.   We could do more research, try  things out, breathe and think,   which is very much in the spirit of Studio X,  which is a space for low-stakes experimentation.  

We could invest more time in growing  relationships, creating multiple points   of contact, finding our champions and first  adopters, and just continuing to build excitement.   Also, can I say that it's really nice not to have  to figure out ways to keep headsets hygienic and   safe for users during a public health crisis?  At least having to do it very quickly. Instead,   we can be more intentional and better informed  about how we approach this. Now, we'll discuss   our community building strategies, the challenges  presented by 2020, and how we pivoted.    I think it's important when you start any new  project or when you're starting a new position   that you start to meet with your  stakeholders to really understand   their needs, their motivations,  and where they want to go.   One of my first projects was to conduct faculty  interviews and do a student survey that Maurini   discussed earlier to understand these needs  to inform our future programming for Studio X.  

Ideally, I would have loved to do this in  person. I really enjoy that personal contact,   and I would have gone to faculty members offices.  I would have gotten to know their departments.   It also would have been really great to maybe walk  around campus a little bit to familiarize myself.  

But of course, this wasn't possible, so we shifted  everything to Zoom and distributed our student   survey virtually. I just want to touch on some of  the challenges here. There was the frenzy of the   transition from on campus to virtual. Folks were  very understandably busy, and it was difficult to   arrange some of these meetings. Also, we had to  think very creatively about how to create and   distribute the student survey, because Studio X  was and is still very new to students as well as   XR concepts and tools. A former Karp Library  Fellow and I worked very closely with Maurini  

to think about how we could do this. For the  student survey, we created two short videos:   one talking about what exactly Studio X  is and what it would do and be and have,   then also a second video to define our terms.  These, they were both very short and would   help our users get up to speed before they could  answer the questions. Then they were also great,   because we later took these videos  and embedded them on our website.    I ended up conducting eight half-hour  interviews with faculty members across   disciplines. The conversations were  fascinating, and I learned so much.  

Then, I was also delighted to see that 58 students  responded to our survey, which we disseminated   over a few weeks in July mostly via email. Many  students asked to be involved and expressed a   lot of excitement. The feedback both from  faculty and students was immensely helpful,   and it was great to see the correlation between  student and faculty needs. They both asked us to   demystify XR and make it super, super accessible  and then to also create low-stakes, introductory   learning opportunities for XR. This process helped  us to lay the groundwork for our next steps.    One of which was outreach. I don't know  about you, but this is generally how I  

feel about outreach. I feel like a lot of  you will understand and empathize with this.   Campus can often be so over programmed, and  it can be challenging to compete with all of   those events, especially if you think back to  your own experience as a student when you're   attending classes, doing research, working, trying  to have fun, sleeping, and all those good things.   It can be obviously challenging to really connect  with people. And what we're really talking about   here is engagement. We wanted to create meaningful  connections with people, and this takes time,   consistency, and fortitude to really create  that mutual understanding and partnership.   

But outreach in 2020 is a different animal  altogether. Everybody is coping. Everything   feels simultaneously very day to day and also like  it's the longest year ever or like time is not   even moving. There's just obviously a lot going  on and a lot to think about. It's difficult to   get people's attention. Some of our strategies  were to first create a style guide with design   assets to create a consistent recognizable look  and feel. We also found our partners in crime   and invested in those relationships, so that was  our library communications and social media team.   We partnered with other librarians  across the library. In particular,  

we worked very closely with one of our STEM  librarians to do all of the programming.   And then also, this was external to the library  across campus. We met with the Career Center,   the Office of Undergraduate Research, and  the Center for Leadership and diversity.   These were all virtual meetings that we carried  out after the initial rush of the spring,   which was much better for folks. I think,  in some ways, the virtual meetings were   easier for people to attend, because  it's very easy to jump on to a zoom call.  

Then, we also created a listserv, website, and  newsletter to keep that communication consistent,   to loop people in, and to make sure they  felt included. Next, we continued working   with classes, and we did some virtual class  visits and integrations. I'll talk a little   bit more about that in just a minute. Lastly,  we've really leaned into what we're calling   strategic spamming via email and social  media, taking advantage of all the contacts,   asking people for suggestions,  and just being very persistent.    The nature of our work with faculty also  changed and in some ways for the better.  

For example, because of shifting projects, we  had time to do a faculty development workshop   series with an XR session. We think we had  better turnout because of the pandemic.   In this instance, I could really start to  see that XR hub starting to form. We had   faculty participate across disciplines doing  really interesting work, who don't normally   have the opportunity to talk to one another. It  was fascinating to listen to those conversations.   We also had some of the faculty that I had  interviewed participate both as attendees as well   as presenters, so we're continuing those points of  contact. Then, one really nice thing that came out   of this project was documentation and resources.  Something that I'm sure we all struggle to do is   creating documentation. Because of this workshop,  we were able to be very intentional about it.  

Then, we were able to use a lot of those resources  for our website and for other projects.    As I mentioned before, we also continued to  work with classes. This summer, for example, we   provided guidance as part of an eight-week program  run by faculty and students in the Warner School   of Education. This particular project was focused  on sustainability education in Sodus, New York.  

Over the summer, they developed  an educational augmented reality   scavenger hunt. We led a workshop initially and  then provided feedback throughout the process.   It s so great to collaborate with education  faculty, who are doing work with XR   tools and methods, because it's so beneficial  for us to better understand the impact of these   technologies. Then also, as mentioned, Emily  mentioned earlier, we are working with the NSF   doctoral students. We're meeting with them in just  a few weeks during one of their class sessions,   so that we can better understand their needs for  their semester-long group projects next fall.    Then, paradoxically, the pandemic has made  it easier to foster external relationships.   Emily and I are both on the Frameless Labs  XR symposium planning committee at RIT. We're  

in our fifth year now, and these planning  meetings usually take place in person.   Because of the shift to virtual, we've been  able to attend to almost all of the meetings.   This has also allowed us to really get to  know faculty at RIT and learn about their   research and expertise. It's helped us forge  stronger relationships with them, and we can  

see more intersections for collaboration and  just crowdsourcing ideas. Lastly, it's just been   much easier to participate in the XR scholarly  community. I've attended six conferences since   the start of the pandemic and been able to engage  with XR practitioners across the world. There is   no way I would have been able to attend all of  these conferences if they had been all in person,   so I've learned so much and have been seeing some  really exciting work. So with that, I'll now turn   it over to Sebastian, who will discuss some of the  ways we've approached programming for Studio X.   

Okay, so I'll just begin by talking about  some of the programs that we piloted   in fall 2020. The interviews and the preliminary  surveys that we conducted pointed us towards   needing introductory workshops that are low stakes  but interesting enough to keep people engaged.   So for us, that meant a high-interactive  content. Asking participants actually open  

the project on their computer and participate  that way, so they weren't just watching us   read things off the screen at them. That  took the form of mostly virtual workshops. I   conducted an introductory Unity workshop based on  scripting and also how the camera works in Unity.   Other Karp Fellows and folks in Studio  X have done workshops in Blender,   which is a very common 3D authoring tool.  In addition to workshops, we're also  

going to hold events with speakers in the  industry that we're really excited about.   We've invited a bunch of scholars, artists,  professionals, and really hope those will augment   our workshops series, and really sort of provide  a professional perspective for what we're doing.    The other thing that I'm excited about  is drop-in hours that are sort of like   office hours. Students come by with questions  they might have. When I was first learning Unity,   the online documentation and online videos were  often overwhelming. I think someone who had been   there before and was willing to talk to me about  their experience would have been really useful.  

We've been holding an hour-long office hour every  other week. We've chosen the platform Discord,   which is a pretty popular messaging  app that has voice and video support.   The reason we chose Discord over other apps is  that Discord is already pretty heavily used,   so sort of the idea of meeting students where  they are already are meeting played a key role   in that. Okay, now I'm going to go through and  discuss some of the challenges that we faced.   Even if we were in person, of course, there  would be challenges with trying to teach   these complicated tools. But since we've been  online, there have been many new challenges.   One big one that we noticed right off the  bat was that teaching 3D authoring tools is   extremely difficult to do virtually. For example,  one of the big skill sets you need to learn   as a beginner is how to move around using  keyboard and the mouse in 3d space fluidly.  

It s really hard to show that over zoom, and  it's also really hard to see what students are   doing wrong over Zoom. In past demos,  we've had people share their screens,   and then we can see what they are doing. But you  still can't see the keys they're pressing or the   mouse movements they're doing. You can  only target one step at a time like that,  

and it also disrupts the flow of the workshop,  which is a huge problem. Just teaching these tools   have been pretty challenging online. Another  huge problem that we've been encountering is that   it's hard as a person conducting these  workshops to just casually look over and   see if a student is having either an issue or  is doing something really cool that you haven't   thought in the software. Everything has to be  set up, and everything sort of has to happen   not very organically, and that's been really  frustrating. Then the other thing which you   I'm sure you ve felt just like I have is  that being on Zoom is pretty hard in itself,   just like looking at the screen and not  being near real people. That's pretty hard.    And then, on top of that, the hardware and  software requirements for running, especially   Unity are pretty serious. We can't always count  on students having a laptop that can run Unity. In  

the Library at the University of Rochester, this  wouldn't be a problem, because all those computers   would be able to run Unity. However, doing the  workshop virtually, you can t of course, rely on   that. We really had to downsize the project to use  the most low-impact assets that we possibly could.   The lowest impact textures that we possibly  could just so people are able to run it.   

Then another problem with Zoom specifically is  how we get students engaged in the workshop.   For example, the first one we  ran, we had a couple of people,   and none of them would turn their cameras on.  And at that point, you wonder if you should force   them to turn their cameras on, but they're  already taking the time out of the day to come   to your workshop, so you probably don't want to  pressure them. At the same time just teaching into   a bunch of blank screens is pretty rough.  We ve also been struggling with that.   A light spot with that is that we've just  started doing some icebreakers, and that has   really helped with the engagement. The other  thing that ties back into this is Zoom fatigue.   We get pretty high signup numbers for these  workshops, but then they dwindle to more like   less than a fourth of the actual participants  end up showing up. We think that has a lot to  

do with people just tired of being on Zoom all  day and don't want to add another hour to that.    Some ideas that we've had to solve some of these  problems. I've mentioned some of them on the last   slide, but I'll just go into more detail here. The  first and the biggest source of these have been  

the feedback from the students that have shown up  to the workshops. We have had students show up to   the workshops, who have been really engaged and  really seem to care about the future of Studio X,   which is really heartening to see. In the last  one I did in particular, there was a student who,   at the end of the workshop stayed for like five or  ten minutes and just sort of talked about what he   wanted to see for the students programming,  what he liked about the workshop,   and what he thought could be done better.  Stuff like that was really great to see   and really helped us figure out like, okay,  so maybe the time that we're holding them,   for example, could be improved on so we can try  and avoid the number of classes that conflict.   Then, also icebreakers have been such a huge thing  moving forward. The icebreaker that we had for the  

first workshop that I did was game specific. We  asked, What game are you playing, or what games   do you enjoy the most? Another piece of  feedback we got was that the Unity workshops   are too game specific and that actually broadening  the scope of the workshop could be really useful,   which is a really good point. Even though  Unity is a game engine, technically,   it can be used for all sorts of different things  like films, renderings of photorealistic models,   and real estate. All sorts of things, so I  think emphasizing the broadness of the tool and   marketing towards a broader audience is a really  great idea. That was a student that provided that   advice. We also demoed a workshop for a couple  of the librarians at the University of Rochester.  

That was a really useful experience because it  emphasized the little things in the project that   could just be made that much simpler. So then  there was just one less bump in the road that   the user could run into. For example, in Unity,  you can expand out the view of the hierarchy and   all the game objects. I realized people were  just doing that accidentally and then just   getting lost in the sea of 3D-modeled hedges  and cubes. Everything in the environment that  

you need to make an environment. I just ended up  hiding those from the user, so they would need to   like click four or five times to open it and not  just once. So just stuff like that to make the   projects more user friendly and  better for beginners. And, lastly,   I just like to share this piece of advice. I like  to share it at the end of my workshop that's based   on programming. Based on my own experience  with programming is that stuff like software   development and programming, in particular,  you're going to fail so many more times,   than you're going to succeed. You need to really  find the joy in the small successes you have.  

I like to end my workshops like that,  and I've certainly been feeling like that   with the workshops. Also, just sort of generally,  it's really important to take heart for example,   when a student is really interested  in seeing the future of Studio   X. To wrap up, I would just like to take a moment  to thank everyone who has been super helpful.   We've had a ton of support from administrators,  the University Advancement office, faculty,   professors, and a ton of people across the  library, and that honestly doesn't even   come close to the number of people, services,  and programs that they've offered their help   to promote our programming in the email list  that Meaghan mentioned earlier in the talk.   We're really indebted to these people,  and they each left a huge impact on our   work and continue to do so. So yeah, just to say  thanks on behalf of the whole Studio X team.

2021-01-24 16:03

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