Beyond zoom: virtual reality classrooms UCI News

Cristina Lopes, a computer science teacher at the UCI Chancellor, sits in the courtyard waiting for her students to slowly enter the classroom. In front of them are a number of large objects: the topic of today’s conference. Lopes stretches out and touches a yellow cylinder floating in front of her, and the object is instantly replaced by a complex line of code.

This classroom is not located in the courtyard or in the park. It’s not even on campus. Lopes’ classroom exists entirely in cyberspace, created through a program he helped design called OpenSimulator.

“I was so tired of Zoom,” she says. “This allowed me to simulate things that were virtually impossible to do in the real world. It is a practical experience that students could not achieve otherwise.

Students taking ICS 10: How Computers Work in the Last Term were the first to be taught in this open source virtual world. The general education class introduces the basics of programming, provides a breakdown of how networks such as the Internet work, and explores how data and information are represented in computing. Although the course is included in the catalog of information and computer science, it is not adapted to the majors of the ICS.

“At first there was a bit of concern for the class,” Lopes says. “Many students only use their phones or netbooks, so for them this software was complicated and advanced. But so far they have done very well.

The lectures were held in the virtual world, with live demonstrations and exercises in which students could participate. After class, they were posted on Twitch and YouTube and made available to the public. Really innovative was the unique virtual space to which each student logged in to complete homework. Using OpenSimulator, Lopes was able to create custom projects for students to complete, primarily virtual representations of how low-level programming and local area networks work.

“It was great. You could see everything that happens inside the computer when the orders were ordered, ”he says. “And when messages were sent to each other, the messages were seen as little pink spheres traveling through the net.”

Lopes is no stranger to virtual worlds. With a master’s degree in computer engineering from the Higher Technical Institute of Portugal and a doctorate. in computer science from Northeastern Boston University, he has been studying computer-simulated environments for nearly 20 years. Prior to joining academia, Lopes worked at the Xerox PARC technology incubator. She was a founding member of the team that developed aspect-oriented programming, which allows you to add additional behavior to the code without modifying the entire program. He soon focused on creating virtual worlds.

She is one of the leading developers of the OpenSimulator program. OpenSim, as it is commonly called, is an open source 3D multi-user application for creating virtual spaces that can be accessed by people around the world. Customers design a “home world” connected to other simulated environments, producing a unique virtual multiverse for each user.

Lopes says he overcame considerable challenges this past quarter, spending more time developing software and coding specific tasks than he had for any other class. He plans to teach the course again next winter. And while the classes will be face-to-face, Lopes intends to re-use the OpenSimulator program, this time through the campus computer labs.

For more information on how to support this or other activities in the ICU, visit Brilliant Future website. The Brilliant Future campaign, launched publicly on October 4, 2019, aims to raise awareness and support the ICU. By hiring 75,000 alumni and with a $ 2 billion philanthropic investment, UCI seeks to achieve new levels of excellence in student success, health and wellness, research and more. Donald Bren’s School of Information and Computer Science plays a vital role in the success of the campaign. Visit for more information https://brilliantfuture.uci.edu/donald-bren-school-of-ics/

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