Thursday 7 December 2017

360 camera use in online/blended courses #elearning #IDesign #MOOC

Sometimes simple instructional design tools can add to the efficiency of learning in an online or blended course. One of the simple options is using a 360° camera to immerse learners in a specific setting providing a more indepth learning context. Creating, using and providing a 360° experience has a long standing use especially with artists who wanted to use multiple visual angles to create a more captivating piece of art using multiple mirrors.

At the same time, using 360° cameras to give contemporary (MOOC) learners a better idea of what is meant by specific descriptions is now being fully tested in online courses. The real-life example provided a bit further down, relates to a MOOC on Climbing and the effect of using 360° videos to instruct online learners (comparing fully online with blended learners and the effect of those videos... really great research read!).


The 360° camera is a camera which records or captures visuals in a 360° field (so the entire sphere). This offers the viewer the ability to move through the full panorama by choosing a specific or multiple viewing directions, using either a keyboard, pointers or by simply tilting their head in the direction they want to view when using Virtual Reality glasses.

360° camera functionality

As a 360 degrees camera will allow you to capture a scene or setting with a 360° angle, this means you - as a learner - can manipulate what you see with your keyboard or mobile phone buttons and get a full visual overview of ... for instance an engineering plant, the inside of an ambulance which is filled with medical equipment, a specific controller room, an event where all of the surrounding areas are of importance to the learner... all shown from one particular point in that space (that being where the picture or movie is taken) but enabling the learner to shift through that space to see all of the potentially interesting features as they can be seen in real life.

An example of this can be seen here, which depicts a room at the Gaudi Exhibition Center in Barcelona, Spain, where I took a picture of a historical artist set-up for 3D capturing (old style). You can see the whole room by using the pointers at the bottom of the picture frame.

Today the 360° camera can be purchased at a reasonable price (e.g. Ricoh Theta S) which allows you to make pictures as well as 360 degrees videos. Although these more reasonably priced camera's come with some restrictions (e.g. size of the videos), they are a good testing board to see what you can do with such a device. Once you realise its applications, you can consider implementing it in a bigger online or blended course.

When to use this tool

A 360 degrees learning element is of use in any situation that demands a full surround understanding of a certain context. If you are looking for an instructional decor which has multiple elements all gathered in one space, or related to each other in a space, than this is the way to go. Providing a 360 overview of such spaces enables the learner to grasp all the elements influencing each other. For instance if you are a medic in an ambulance, you need to know where to find specific equipment in a moments notice in order to save the life of the patients. At the same time the driver of the ambulance can benefit from a 'real life' drive through traffic after picking up a patient, and see which traffic situations (being able to see full street coverage) to watch out for while having a patient in the back.

Example of implementing 360° video in online and blended learning

A great research example can be read in this paper shared and co-authored by Martin Ebner.
In this research study a course, combining both computer-supported and face-to-face teaching using the concept of blended learning, has been designed. It is a beginners climbing course called “Klettern mit 360° Videos“ (climbing with 360° videos) and the online part has been implemented as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC). This research study presents the background of the course, the course concept, the course itself and the results of the evaluation. To measure the difference between the pure online participants and the blended learning participants the MOOC has been evaluated independently from the blended learning course. It should be mentioned that all participants (whether pure online or both) evaluated the course in a positive manner. The use of technology enhanced learning realized by the concept of blended learning proved to be a well-suited method for this course setting. Furthermore, many advantages of computer based learning, blended learning and 360°-videos have been reported by the participants.

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