Virtual Teaching Resources: A Year In Review

by | 12 January 2021 | ACM SIGGRAPH, Conferences, Education

Photo by Zen Chung from Pexels

For online education, and pretty much every other aspect of life, 2020 was a year like no other. By mid-March instructors who had never taught online suddenly found themselves inundated with new terms, tools, and trying to navigate the murky depths of delivering courses over the internet. For some, this transition was made easier by institutions that already supported virtual delivery, with dedicated staff and enterprise-level resources for the purpose. But for most, even many of the well-equipped, this was a radical shift, and the necessity to adopt new technology and approaches to their material was critical. We have compiled a selection of resources for instructors from the past year in the hopes they may assist in helping to better prepare for yet another semester of virtual courses.

An April ACM SIGGRAPH Blog article, “Educators Share Tips for Remote Teaching,” suggests specific tools for delivering courses online as well as how to use them for content in the field of computer graphics and animation. This is a must-read that covers now well-known tools like Zoom and Slack as well as niche apps, subject-specific advice, and experiential insight, such as how to foster student engagement in online animation courses.

During the SIGGRAPH 2020 Birds of a Feather season “The XR Educators Survival Kit: Hidden Gems For Learning In A Time Of Remote Teaching”, Marla Schweppe, of Rochester Institute of Technology, and Barbara Mones, of the University of Washington, interviewed Melissa Oldrin, Megan O’Connor, and Nathan Thomas, of Unity. While the synchronous session done over Zoom allowed attendees to ask questions of the panel, many of the educator resources shared are still available on the Unity website. Educators can access specially developed material and resources to help teach Unity, the Educator community forums, or apply for grants to Unity Pro for student practice. The session also included examples of student work and a walk-through of the premade Unity learning modules available to everyone.

In another Birds of a Feather session — “Exploring SocialXR As Education Laboratories For Experiential Learning (In AltspaceVR)” — participants were invited to bring avatars into a virtual classroom using a variety of virtual reality headsets. They were able to tour virtual classrooms, galleries, and interactive spaces. For example, one room had four platforms indicating A, B, C, and D as multiple choice options to questions posed by the moderator and students “walked” to their answer. The session was organized by Christopher Stapleton, of Virtual World Society and Simiosys Real World Labs, Thomas Furness III, of Virtual World Society and Rat Lab, LLC, and Steve Lewis, of Virtual World Society and Amuseo Academy, and featured the AltspaceVR platform.

Other notable SIGGRAPH 2020 live sessions included “Virtual Production In Education” (organized by Nick Jushchyshyn of Drexel University) and “Sharing Ideas Teaching 3D Animation” (moderated by Richard Lapidus of Moraine Valley Community College). Both sessions were held as a means for facilitating dialogue on enhancing teaching and learning experiences.

We invite all educators in the SIGGRAPH community to join the conversation this summer during SIGGRAPH 2021 and online. Please share what has been working for you — your ideas, tips, tricks, tools, and, perhaps, even assignment ideas via the Faculty Submitted Student Work exhibit and by submitting to the Educator’s Forum.


Best of luck in your virtual classrooms and happy new year!

Have new ideas for how to further improve in-classroom tools or cool, new assignments you’ve innovated for your students? Submit to the SIGGRAPH 2021 Educator’s Forum now through 23 February!

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