XR from a UDL Perspective

From a UDL perspective, XR-based experiences potentially offer promise across all three of the key principle domains: representation, action & expression, and engagement. From augmented reality chemical models to immersive virtual reality architectural walkthroughs, many wonderful educational and research applications have emerged already. These applications hint at the enormous potential for XR technologies to present engaging new options for clarifying syntax, structure, and symbol systems or to provide alternative perceptual options for information display. While enabling XR technologies drop in cost and become widely available as consumer commodities, the modes and functionality are increasingly brought together in a variety of settings for use in teaching and learning innovations. Commercially produced content and visualization tools are already two main entry points for XR being deployed in academic settings. Pre-produced content range widely across role play, virtual geographical tours, science visualizations, and historical fantasy. Augmented and virtual reality visualization tools extend data visualization capabilities by making them explorable immersively. For teaching and learning, these products and tools offer off-the-shelf virtual experiences of places that don't exist, that exist but one cannot visit directly in real life, and places that no longer exist. They also provide visualizations of abstractions and data concepts that are difficult to communicate and understand.

Given the importance of vision, hearing, motion, and haptic control in XR, there also arise many crucial questions about how to accommodate users' various functional restrictions and diverse sensory limitations. UDL promotes the use of accessible and usable course design for the largest possible audience. Accessible technology and space design matter tremendously with XR. Assistive technology selection and accessible space layout cannot be left as afterthoughts but need to be considered from the start as part of the learning activity design process. The additional needs for accommodations around controllers, sensors, and tether cabling, etc. are part of a newer area of focus across active and participatory learning spaces where the goals of independence and accommodation need careful balancing and enlightened design. 

Further Reading:  

Virtual Chirality: A Constructivist Approach to a Chemical Education Concept in Virtual Reality

Students ‘visit’ a lost archaeological treasure via virtual reality

Students create virtual art using Google Tilt Brush

Virtual reality can help make people more compassionate compared to other media, new Stanford study finds

UCSF ChimeraX VR Chemical Structure Display

UCSF's ChimeraX displays chemical structures using VR.

Becoming Homeless VR Experience

Stanford Virtual Human Interaction Lab's Becoming Homeless VR Experience 

Nimrud Rising Northwest Palace VR by Learning Sites

Northwest Palace at Nimrud VR experience by Learning Sites, Inc.

Access Mars Experience from the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL)

The Jet Propulsion Lab's Access Mars 3D Experience.