XR InLearning Global Summit

Conference Highlights: XR InLearning Global Summit 2019

For the second year running, Digital Learning & Innovation (DL&I) sponsored the XR InLearning Global Summit held at Boston University’s George Sherman Union. Over two hundred technology leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators from higher education, healthcare, and XR industries were on hand for the full day event. Chris Dellarocas, Hakan SatirogluHakan Satiroglu, founder of XR InLearning, and Chris Dellarocas, DL&I Associate Provost and Richard C. Shipley Professor of Management at the Questrom School of Business, offered welcome remarks and were followed by nearly a dozen panel discussions and keynote speakers. Topics included: How to teach the value of XR to colleagues; the XR investment landscape; VR and accessibility; content building and more.

“Is Now The Time for XR?”

The first panel discussion introduced XR innovators from Endicott College, Schell Games, Immersive VR Education and Boston Children’s Hospital. The group discussed the current XR landscape; shared industry trends and best practices and offered guidance on how to stay connected to the XR global community.

Moderator Chris Madsen with Immersive VR Education asked the question, “Is now the time for XR?” The panel quickly responded.

“Absolutely,” said Jeffrey Jacobson, Simulation Engineering Project Manager with Boston Children’s Hospital. “No time is better than this moment…[the technology] is affordable and the rules haven’t been written.”

In support, Hedrick Ellis, Senior Instructional Technologist with Endicott College cited two institutions leading the VR charge: US Army and retail giant Walmart.

“Walmart spent millions of dollars to buy Oculus headsets to train their workers on how to handle Black Friday…And the US Army had an order of over $800 million to Microsoft for the HoloLens to train people in the military,” Ellis said. “When certain mainstream American institutions like Walmart and the US Army are spending hundreds of millions of dollars on this technology, it’s no longer hype. This is really happening.”

Advocating for XR: “Get Back to Basics”

When advocating for organizational interest and adoption of XR, the panel agreed: You need to put the headset on and get back to basics.

“VR, AR, XR have come along way and there are so many different components of it,” Madsen said. “So educating [colleagues] in all the nuances is important.”

Brooke Morrill, Director of Education, Schell Games said it is also important to remember the problem you are trying to solve and the use case the technology it is intended to support.

“If the use case is ‘I want my students immersed in a 360 degree environment, they don’t have to interact with it, they just have to see it’— Google Cardboard is probably great for that,” she said. “If it’s a high degree of fidelity and interactivity—if you’re engaging in a surgical simulation, you probably need to actually be pretty precise. You do need a headset and hand controls.”

Piloting: What advice do you offer?

Moving from advocacy and evangelizing, to piloting, panelists Kate Donovan, Clinical Director of Innovation of Boston Children’s Hospital; Chris Chin, Vice President & General Manager, HTC VIVE and Kyle Lum, Virtual & Augmented Reality Project Lead with Biogen, discussed how to select the first XR use case for your organization and offered the following advice for XR evangelists.


The general consensus among panelists is social media—specifically Twitter—is a go-to resource for keeping up with the global XR community. “[Twitter] is a firehose of information, it is nonstop,” Madsen said.

The panel recommended following spatial computing agency Infinite Retina because the company invests significant resources promoting XR-related industries. The XR InLearning LinkedIn Group is also a social channel promoting information sharing and industry connectivity.

In addition to social media, Ellis recommended the book Experience on Demand by Jeremy Bailenson. “One big takeaway [from the book] is the idea of VR being the great empathy machine. You can have the experience of walking in someone else’s shoes in a way that you can’t just by watching a movie.”

DL&I on AR, VR, XR InLearning

Members of DL&I’s Educational Technology, Instructional Production Services and Digital Education Incubator were present at the XR InLearning Global Summit. Here the team shares insights and takeaways from the Boston University-sponsored conference.

Harry Lawrence-EdTech-Blackboard LearnHarrison Lawrence, Manager | Educational Platform Administration

Many of the speakers at the XR InLearning conference emphasized how virtual reality has been around for a few decades yet it’s application in education is still in a nascent stage.

Two major reasons why XR has been slow to progress in the education space:

  1. Cost. Not so long ago, getting started with XR was cost prohibitive. Headsets required dedicated, powerful computers to drive the experience. Today we are seeing headsets that are more affordable and powerful, eliminating the requirement that they be tethered to a computer. Standalone “unplugged” headsets have greatly reduced in cost.
  2. Interest. For many, virtual reality is a foreign concept, or seen as a toy that has no real value in education.

To get faculty and administration to buy into VR, the panelists provided several tips to drive adoption:

Try – Give people the opportunity to experience an XR environment. It’s easy to talk about the plaudits of XR, but until someone puts on the headset they will never fully understand what is possible.

Listen – Figure out what pain points exist. Is there a small piece that XR could help solve a problem or improve a process which might serve as a starting point?

Involve – Getting people (especially students) involved in creating the XR experience really improves buy-in.

Understand – There are still limits with the technology. Realize those limits and work to make sure the experience takes that into consideration.

Wendell SealeWendell Seale, Senior Platform Administrator | Video Streaming

The XR InLearning Global summit’s first-panel discussion touched on Evangelizing. The discussion was about sharing the gospel of XR to those in your organization who might not have all the answers or understand how XR supports teaching and learning. The conversation centered on how to effectively communicate this across your organization; in order to get maximum buy-in from all constituents.

Getting faculty and administration to buy into the idea of XR adoption requires exposing the users’ by providing them with opportunities to use the equipment in a meaningful way. In addition, helping them to see how they could potentially use XR in their teaching-learning.

The framework for XR adoption covers five distinctive areas “Evangelize” Advocating for XR in your Organization. “Educate” Teach the value of XR to Colleagues, “Pilot” Select the first XR use case for your school or your organization. “Fund” ROI to expand XR in the enterprise.  Finally “Scale” Build a Content Infrastructure to scale XR.

XR InLearning Roadmap

Photo of Diana MarianDiana Marian, Project Manager | Digital Education Incubator

Many of the conversations were focused on how to start using XR technologies in an education setting or in any type of organization. The recommendations from panelists were to:
  • Find an internal champion and the appropriate decision-makers who will experience the tools and will support or endorse their use.
  • Take something already being done and include an XR element by re-allocating funds.
  • Raise awareness of XR tools already being used (e,g., smartphones already have AR capability that is largely in use).
  • Consider what you can safely adopt, keep it constant even as you’re customizing, then move to scale. Ownership is key in any scaling efforts.
We’ve found similar approaches to be successful with projects we pilot at the Digital Education Incubator.
Everyone in attendance seemed to be aware, to a certain extent, of the challenges related to content availability, cost, and ease of use (e.g., some tools are not feasible for specific needs or audiences because of weight or body surface covered). For wider adoption, specifically in education, XR tools should ideally be integrated within larger systems and practices, including learning outcomes and curriculum development, while allocating sufficient time for prototyping, iteration, deployment, and measurement.
Some considerations for XR deployment are:
  • Is it safe? (e.g., consider the risk of eye strain or seizures, as well as the potential impact on developing brains)
  • Is it practical? (e.g., frequency and mode of use, administration)
  • Is it accessible?
  • What is important to you? → What is the current state? → What can XR help with? → What does that mean to you (in terms of resources, impact, etc.)?

David Charpentier | Senior Instructional Multimedia Producer

I thoroughly enjoyed being able to experience the different facets of XR hands-on and have discussions with the various vendors. Knowing what’s possible, whether it’s a Human Resources or training app or an easy to use program to develop XR content, will allow me to guide faculty in the development of their own VR, AR and simulation curricula.
Listening to the panelists discuss their own experiences advocating for and implementing XR content was incredibly informative as BU makes this budgetary, technological and pedagogical leap. The panels on “Advocating for XR in your Organization” and  “Selecting the First Use Case for Your School” both advocated two things that really stuck out for me:
1. To sell XR, you need others to experience it, you need to walk around campus and show people what it can do.
2. People have preconceived notions of XR, but they’re limited. Now, they have the option to create simulations tailored for their own curriculums. Create, build, experience.

Josh MacklerJosh Mackler Digital Learning Designer | Instructional Production Services

The demo hall at the xR InLearning conference was a great opportunity to have some hands-on time with the different technologies that deliver AR/VR experiences. Trends in tech historically gravitate towards one product at a time, receiving the spotlight and buzz “du jour.” Although exciting in the moment, this singular focus does not drive innovation.

As of this year, we have entered a space where the access to and affordability of tech allows for numerous products to exist simultaneously and innovate on their own strengths. This diversity of tech was on full display in the demo hall. After seeing all of the possibilities, it was refreshing to not feel pressured to pick a favorite. Adopting a single VR platform at scale is not cost-effective nor future-proof, so knowing that there are multiple low-risk solutions to try out was inspiring. This broader variety took time to become available but it was worth the wait!

Do you have an idea to share around emerging educational technologies? Reach out to the Digital Education Incubator.

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