Marty Cohen, he/him, Teaching Professor, Department of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences, University of Washington, Seattle campus
I teach a fieldtrip-based class looking at worker health and safety. During the peak of the COVID pandemic, I was not able to take students out to workplaces to view potential hazards and controls. I developed a solution for that, and more.
Teaching students about recognizing workplace health and safety hazards and controls from a book will give them a theoretical basis for their future endeavors, but will not prepare them to be a competent practitioner. Through visits to actual industrial workplaces in my class, Recognition of Health Hazards in Industry – ENVH 564, students gain these skills first-hand. Many other non-tangible skills are learned that are not easily taught without an immersive, interactive teaching model.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, when students were not on campus or able to go to worksites, I developed a 360° video tour system that allowed me to show students the workplaces in an immersive manner without them leaving campus or their homes. I recorded 360° video with a camera on a tripod in a variety of locations in the workplace to highlight different work tasks, hazards, and exposure controls. I later turned these videos into 360° workplace tours, similar to real estate tours with navigation between work areas, informational pop-ups, embedded photos, videos, and PDF files that are used to highlight various attributes. Tours can be viewed via a website, a computer-based app, or using a virtual reality (VR) headset.
Anecdotally, I have heard from students who have used the system that it helped them better understand what they were going to see or what they had seen. A formal assessment of the system has yet to be conducted, but a video is being planned for safety training with a private company that will allow us to evaluate knowledge gains.
This system can be used to show complex physical systems to students in an immersive and interactive environment. Once the 360° video has been captured, a final product can be created, depending on its complexity, in less than an hour.
This system developed can be considered sustainable teaching from multiple perspectives:
- Using immersive 360° video in a VR system has the potential to effectively set the stage for, or reinforce lessons learned during field trips and provide multiple “visits” to the site.
- By having 360° video tours available for students, we can reduce the need to transport people to a site which will reduce the carbon footprint of the class.
- The 360° video tours will also remove the logistic burdens for the instructor of arranging a site visit and getting a large group of people safely, to and around a worksite.
It should be noted that viewing one of the videos is not a perfect substitute for an in-person tour, but can be a supplement.