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With the outbreak of the Novel Coronavirus, the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) of the Faculty of Engineering at The University of Hong Kong (HKU) has deployed an innovative interactive platform based on internet technology and virtual reality (VR) to deliver online teaching and learning, in order to reduce contact among students.
At the beginning of February after the Chinese New Year this year, the Department has completed the setup of the interactive platform. Two courses, including one from the Industrial Engineering curriculum – Virtual Reality of Systems Engineering (IMSE3137) and a HKU Common Core course – Virtual Worlds, Real Bodies (CCHU9056), have made use of the online video communication platform Zoom (www.zoom.us) and the imseCAVE VR technology (www.hactis.com) based on research and development from HKU researchers at the Department of IMSE with support from the Innovation and Technology Commission and Industrial collaborators. The platform enables teachers and students to communicate and exchange knowledge in an interactive virtual environment over the Internet.
The platform facilitates teaching and learning over the cyberspace which overcomes geographical limitation and across different hardware platforms, including smart phones, tablets, laptops, etc. Professors and teaching assistants can deliver course materials and multimedia contents, such as videos, 3D-images and VR scenarios, by using imseCAVE, various software and white board simultaneously. While professors are going through the presentation, students can use real-time tele-text applications to post their questions and obtain real-time responses from professors and fellow classmates.
Dr Henry Lau, Associate Dean of Engineering (Innovation), said, “Since the launch of the platform in February, students have actively participated in the online cyber-classroom, with many more Q&A discussion sessions going on as well as a high participation rate, i.e. over 80% in both courses that are using this platform1.”
Professor Christopher Chao, Dean of HKU Engineering, is impressed by the overwhelming support from students. He said, “This initiative enhances the student engagement in the online classroom, and pretty much pave the way for an effective interactive online teaching and learning paradigm. We hope this platform can be popularised among other departments and faculties in the future.”
The imseCAVE is a fully immersive and interactive visualization system that provides extremely vivid stereoscopic views of sceneries in 3-D designed and is developed by the research team in the Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Systems Engineering (IMSE) of the Faculty of Engineering at HKU. The system developed is based on the technologies of distributed and interactive virtual reality, with real-time motion capture capability. It is a low-cost, high-performance generic Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) system that is versatile and powerful for cost-effective design, analysis and evaluation of complex engineering systems and operations; e-training and e-learning. The imseCAVE has recently been deployed in Occupational Safety and Health Council and Construction Industry Council.