Jessie Martin who works at Launceston College in Tasmania in their on-campus hackerspace, the STEAM NGN, pictured here in the BC collaboratory. Photo courtesy of Nicole Beattie/Bellevue College

Jessie Martin who works at Launceston College in Tasmania in their on-campus hackerspace, the STEAM NGN, pictured here in the BC collaboratory. Photo courtesy of Nicole Beattie/Bellevue College

Fulbright Scholar teaches virtual reality at Bellevue College — other side of the earth — simultaneously

Scholar introducing students to virtual world live in Bellevue and live-streamed to Tasmania.

  • Friday, January 19, 2018 10:59am
  • News

James Riggall, a Fulbright Scholar and founder of the Tasmanian startup Bitlink, is introducing students to the virtual world, live in the collaboratory at Bellevue College and live-streamed to innovation hubs on the other side of the earth in Tasmania. One class offered for Winter Quarter, Virtual Reality Design and Communications, is geared for anyone who wants to understand this emerging technology, while another, Virtual Reality Lab Project, gives students the chance to get hands-on by designing and prototyping a virtual reality (VR) project.

Guest speakers will also bring their expertise, like Thomas A. Furness III, who many regard as the “Grandfather of Virtual Reality.” Furness founded the Human Interface Technology Lab at the University of Washington and the University of Tasmania, and sponsored distance-learning classes co-taught by Riggall and Bruce Wolcott, a professor at Bellevue College with a passion for online learning.

From 2010-12 Riggall and Wolcott tried different technologies that allowed for an instructor in Tasmania and an instructor in Bellevue to teach students…anywhere. They experimented with video teleconferencing, Prezi presentations, email, and the WebCT course delivery platform.

They’ve have been bouncing ideas off each other ever since.

And they came up with a crazy one—wouldn’t it be great if Riggall came to Bellevue College to help develop the collaboratory and burgeoning makerspace? It’d also be an opportunity to take a deep dive into how virtual reality can, and will, change the educational landscape. The only way they thought it could work was if Riggall applied for a Fulbright Scholarship, which he did. And got.

“He’s extremely creative, and completely driven by the idea that any place can foster their own Silicon Valley,” said Wolcott. “When he got his education, he didn’t think his next immediate step was to pursue a career in a city with lots of opportunity. It was to bring that opportunity to the local level, and build bridges between business, education and the community to launch high-tech learning spaces. He’s someone who turns a barrier into a reason to do things in a new way. If the way doesn’t exist, he’ll make it.”

The courses explore a new educational model that literally and figuratively dissolves the four walls of a classroom. Not only are the VR classes live-streamed to a collaboration hub half a world away, but the classes are taught in an open space in the Library Media Center, where any passing Bellevue College student can stop, listen and learn.

“We have to redefine our conception of space, and access, to create a sustainable future,” said Riggall. “In the cities you have lots of job opportunities confined to a narrow physical location, which leads to a high cost of living. In rural areas there isn’t the same breadth of opportunities, so people leave. Ultimately education and business are about building relationships, and video and texting haven’t been able to compare to face-to-face interactions in a certain, human way. Virtual reality could change that. If we can build an interactive, educational, and collaborative model that develops real relationships between Bellevue, Washington and Launceston, Tasmania, we can scale that out anywhere.”

Bruce Wolcott (left) and James Riggall. Photo courtesy of Nicole Beattie/Bellevue College

Bruce Wolcott (left) and James Riggall. Photo courtesy of Nicole Beattie/Bellevue College

More in News

President’s emergency declaration sparks immediate legal backlash

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said his team will sue the White House if federal funds originally intended for Washington state are interrupted.

Bill targets sexual health curriculum in Washington schools

Senate Bill 5395 is co-sponsored by 17 Democratic representatives and introduced by Sen. Claire Wilson, D-Federal Way.

According to King County’s Mental Illness and Drug Dependency (MIDD) annual report, Seattle had the highest rate of people using services at 36 percent of the total, followed by 31 percent from South King County, 18 percent from the greater Eastside, and 7 percent from north county including Shoreline.
Study shows King County’s treatment funding is making progress

A document on the county’s .1 percent health sales tax was accepted Wednesday by the county council.

Children’s play area at Seadrunar. Photo by Lauren Davis via Facebook
Seedy side of Seadrunar: Drug rehab center accused of neglect, exploitation

Public records reveal that Seattle facility was accused of neglecting children and clients in its care.

Russell Wilson and Ciara spoke Friday at the Tukwila Library to Foster students and other attendees as their Why Not You Foundation joined forces with the King County Library System and JPMorgan Chase to launch the DREAM BIG: Anything is Possible campaign. Photo by Kayse Angel
Russell Wilson and Ciara launch DREAM BIG campaign

Partnership with King County libraries dovetails with scholarship program for local students.

Somali community faces SeaTac displacement

Proposed redevelopment threatens the heart of the Somali business community.

A plow removes snow from the Reporter’s parking lot in Factoria on Monday, Feb. 11. Ashley Hiruko/Staff photo
One of the ‘snowiest’ months on record for King County

Citizens fled to stores to stock up on needed supplies; City staff worked to keep roads clear.

Legislation targets missing and murdered indigenous women epidemic

Savanna’s Act co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA); Washington ranks among highest in nation

Most Read