Fulbright Scholar teaches virtual reality

James Riggall is a Tasmanian who has been working at Bellevue College as part of the Fulbright Scholar program since September of 2017. In depicting what the program was, he stated that “the Fullbright program is basically an academic exchange program, so it takes scholars from America and sends them to other parts of the world for six to 12 months for research projects or Ph.D. coursework or things like that. It also does the opposite, taking scholars from all over the world to the United States for a time before sending them home.” According to Riggall, the point of this program is to “get academics from all over the world into the United States and to give academics in the United States a chance to experience the rest of the world.”
The course that Riggall is teaching is about taking game design and converting the concepts to virtual reality instead. According to him, “We’re not teaching programming. We’re not teaching the complex engineering. What we’re teaching is the history of virtual reality, ideas like immersion and presence, how the immersion effect is created. We’re looking at the human perception system and how that relates to virtual reality.” Towards the end of the course, he explained that students will be looking at “the way virtual reality is being applied in industry and art and also some of the social and ethical implications and the future of the technology.” At the end of the course, students should have a really good idea of what virtual reality is.
This understanding is obtained through what Riggall describes as “some awesome people in the library. We have access to a bunch of equipment like VR headsets and computers we are able to use in the course so students will have had a chance to use the technology.” Every week they also bring in guest speakers from companies like Microsoft and Google as well as people who run virtual reality startups and community groups.
Riggall emphasized one of the unique aspects of the class in that it is not just being taught at Bellevue College, it is also streamed to several different sites. What this means according to Riggall is that “we have 25 students in the room but we also have classes in King County libraries, in Bellevue, in University of Washington Bothell as well as three different sites in Australia.” This accumulates up to dozens of other people attending the same course.
Riggall considers the course to be a “VR 101” course, in that they’re not looking for people with a specific background. Rather, they are looking for people who are interested in technology and interested in virtual reality. He added that they are looking for people who have other interests as well so they can consider how virtual reality would fit into their other interests. However he stated that for people who are more interested in the programming aspect of virtual reality, they might want a different course. The course lectures are held in room D126P on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3 p.m. and students who are not enrolled in the class are also welcome to attend the lectures.