Engaging Augmented Environments: Building Immersive Digital Spaces

Steven Rogers & Karl Gimblett


This presentation explores the viability of augmented digital spaces and environments and importantly, the pedagogic, social and inclusive impact which they have. Educational augmented digital spaces include a wide range of media and systems, from recordings of taught sessions to chat rooms and online only programmes of taught materials and, as we focus on here, conferences. These spaces are becoming more commonplace and the student expectations for such provisions are rising. Should we provide these spaces as standard? Are they pedagogically beneficial? Can we use them to solve retention, engagement and accessibility issues? Could such digital environments help reduce our impacts on our living environment?

Here we investigate the potential of conferences which are entirely, or partially, digital. Virtual spaces can be framed as areas for collaboration, exploration and dissemination. Running digital conferences or providing digital areas to “in the flesh” conferences has many potential benefits (to educational staff, researchers, industry and students), including:

  • Accessibility - individuals who would otherwise not be able to attend could have access to part or all of the conference. Access issues may include travel distance, cost, time-flexibility (working, caring responsibility etc.) impostor syndrome etc.;
  • Inclusivity - certain individuals are more comfortable engaging in an online environment, some benefit from video style presentations (where subtitles could be included), delegates would benefit from greater choice of session content (where several sessions run concurrently) - if sessions were recorded or captured in another form they could be accessed post live event, conferences could potentially be open to a far wider audience than would be traditional for the event etc.;
  • Legacy - sessions could be curated within the virtual spaces and discussions and debates could continue way past the conclusion of the conference - this space would also be a place for attendees at the physical version to participate
  • Sustainability - The option to attend conferences without travel associated carbon-footprint could provide a more ethical option for attending conferences (particularly overseas conferences)

In addition, these spaces could be used for student conferences giving students experience of dissemination, catalysing engaged students, allowing for accessible digital education and to help build cohort identities.