Virtual Reality: The new classroom! Archaeology using VR

Imagine digging…virtually! Researchers at the University of Illinois
with funding from the National Science Foundation, have found a way to bring the archaeological
field school dig to the classroom. Using virtual reality technology, the team
has designed a virtual cave modeled in part on a real cave excavated in the 1930’s. The site contains both ancient and more recent
human artifacts, all accessible to the student that digs in the right spot. With over 110 virtual artifacts, many of which
are based on actual university relics, the students work in teams of two to explore and
safely navigate the cave. From deciding what tools to use to mapping
where to dig, this virtual site allows students to learn it all. So the students are learning a broad spectrum
of skills. They’re learning how to use historical information
and find a site. How to excavate a site. How to map and plan for an excavation, and
they’re learning how to catalog and document artifacts. The goal of this course is to provide an alternative
field school experience that is less costly and accessible to all. Virtual reality allows end-users and students
to experience (off cam) virtual field trips where you can access places that are not accessible
in real life that they no longer exist or the cost of entry is too high you can make
available to these students using virtual environments to give them experiences that
they wouldn’t normally be able to have. The team is now evaluating the usefulness
of the program to determine if the skills the students learn are equivalent to those
obtained in a real-world dig.

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