Extended Reality for Everybody – XR MOOC Specialization on Coursera

*Note: This piece was originally published by Media & Learning.

Michael Nebeling, XR Fellow and assistant professor of information, School of Information, and assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science, College of Engineering

What Is the XR MOOC Specialization?

The Extended Reality for Everybody is a three-course MOOC specialization designed for online learners by Professor Michael Nebeling and a team from the University of Michigan to learn about augmented, virtual, and mixed reality technologies, applications, and issues. Since its launch on Coursera in December 2020, more than 16,000 learners have enrolled and several thousand learners have completed at least one of the courses if not the entire specialization.

Coursera specializations require learners to subscribe for a monthly fee to be able to earn a certificate of completion, but there are options for financial support and also auditing is possible to get access to the content for free.

Below is one of the introductory lectures to XR terminology which was created in two versions, one using a more traditional approach with slides (not shown here) and the one below, using mixed reality capture of Dr. Nebeling giving the lecture in VR with Google Tilt Brush.

What is in the XR MOOC Specialization?

The MOOC series consists of three courses that together provide an overview of the XR technology landscape and a discussion of the key issues and trends (Course 1), take a design thinking and doing approach to creating new XR experiences (Course 2), and provide an overview of three main approaches to developing XR applications with WebXR using A-Frame, Unity, and Unreal (Course 3).

How did we design the XR MOOC Specialization?

The specialization was created by a professor specialized in human-computer interaction and extended reality, working with a team of learning experience designers, media designers, accessibility specialists, and legal specialists from UMich’s Center for Academic Innovation. The team brainstormed and discussed alternative designs with the goal of creating an online learning experience that is as in-depth and hands-on without requiring prior design and programming knowledge or access to XR devices.

Each MOOC consists of a set of video lectures, video demonstrations, postings for discussion and reflection, and short activities involving XR technologies and applications. While this content already covers a lot of different topics, there is an even more in-depth discussion of the topics and more involved exercises as part of the honors track for those who really wish to engage with the material and go deeper.

What’s next for the XR MOOC

UMich’s Center for Academic Innovation has recently announced a new partnership with Coursera to create 10 XR-enhanced courses focused on the future of work. While these courses are not specialized on XR, they will all involve some form of XR to benefit learners in many different subject areas. We are also planning updates to the XR MOOC specialization with potential spin-offs from it. In addition to discussing recently emerging topics like Web3 and the Metaverse, we wish to create lectures in XR that learners can watch on a screen or actually attend and participate in using their own XR devices. To this end, Dr. Nebeling and his research team recently created two new systems in research. First, XRStudio is a web-based software system designed to support recording and live streaming of VR lectures (see video summary of this research). Second, Paper Trail is a Unity app designed for teachers to enrich paper hand-outs with immersive content that students can view and interact with in AR (see video summary of this research).

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screencap of Sean Swider using ViewPoint tool