Navigating the Virtual Realm: My Journey in IB Education with Virtual Reality by Evaristo Doria

Dr. Evaristo Doria / Principal Senior Lecturer – Institute of International Business – J. Mack Robinson College of Business, Georgia State University – edoria@gsu.edu

 

Embarking on My Journey: An Introduction

A few years ago, I stumbled upon a piece of news highlighting Volvo successfully integrating VR technology to boost collaboration and innovation within their teams. Intrigued by this case, I reached out directly to Volvo for a deeper understanding of the opportunity. It was Timmy Ghiurau, the lead of the XR and Simulation Experiences Unit at Volvo Cars in Sweden, who truly opened my eyes to the possibilities of VR. He was incredibly generous with his knowledge, igniting my strong desire to explore this emerging technology further. In an enlightening conversation, he remarked, “The collaboration in virtual reality allows our developers to create and test concepts, ideas, and assumptions in a highly efficient and effective way we have not ever seen before.”

 

Timmy Ghiurau, head of the XR and Simulation Experiences Unit at Volvo Cars in Sweden, is seen deeply engrossed in a VR driver testing experience. Through VR, Volvo’s developers can efficiently and effectively create and test concepts, ideas, and assumptions, marking a significant leap forward in the realm of automotive design and development.

 

Around the same time, I came across a new book on how immersive technologies were set to revolutionize the business world. Its author, Jeremy Dalton, currently serves as the Head of Immersive Technologies at PwC US and was based in London during the book’s publication. I was quickly captivated by his insights and eagerly devoured his book. Impressed and enthusiastic for more knowledge, I reached out to him to delve deeper into the potential of virtual reality in the business sector. In our discussion, Jeremy shed light on how Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) were at the forefront of a transformative wave of immersive technologies. He highlighted their vast potential to benefit businesses across various industries, regardless of size. He pointed out that businesses, no matter their scale, could harness these cutting-edge technologies for immediate application in numerous areas such as learning and development, remote collaboration and assistance, visualization of remote assets and environments, sales and marketing, consumer behavior research, and more. During this conversation, I understood that I needed to incorporate VR into my international business courses to better prepare my students for the promising scenario described in his book. I even invited Jeremy to be a guest speaker if one day I was able to develop a course where students could use VR technology. He graciously accepted my invitation.

This image features Jeremy Dalton, the author of the book “Reality Check: How Emerging Technologies Can Transform Your Business.”

 

Exploring the Essential Components of a VR-Centric IB Course

 

While preparing to design and deliver my first courses in Virtual Reality, I identified two crucial avenues for integrating VR into them: facilitating immersive collaborative team projects and delivering virtual tours.

In the students’ team projects, VR emerges as a more effective tool than traditional video-conferencing setups. Unlike conventional video-conferencing platforms, where participants may disengage by simply turning off their video camera, VR provides immersive shared workspaces that discourage such distractions. Additionally, VR’s tracking of participants’ eye and body movements contributes to heightened engagement during meetings and discussions. A specialized virtual workspace is essential for facilitating collaborative team projects in VR, so I’ve chosen to partner with Arthur Technologies, headquartered in Germany, a company recognized for providing over 30 versatile workspaces designed for seamless collaboration in VR.

In the image, participants are immersed in one of Arthur Technologies’ specialized virtual workspaces, meticulously designed to facilitate seamless collaboration in VR.

 

VR Immersive Collaborative Team Projects: Training Plays a Fundamental Role for Success

To foster successful collaboration in virtual workspaces using Virtual Reality (VR), comprehensive training and familiarization sessions are essential for all team members. These sessions must be designed to ensure proficiency in navigating and utilizing the VR workspace effectively; team members should learn crucial skills such as mastering movement controls, interacting with objects, and accessing menus and settings within the VR environment. Additionally, it is necessary that the training showcases collaborative tools and features available in the VR workspace, such as whiteboards, document sharing, and real-time co-editing, which are instrumental in promoting teamwork and project collaboration.

Arthur Technology Academy guides participants through a VR team activity tutorial.

 

VR Tours: A Three-Step Approach to Foster Engagement

Integrating VR tours to destinations overseas into traditional lectures presents another significant opportunity, as mentioned earlier. The sense of presence during these virtual tours can enhance learning by increasing engagement, attention, and retention of information. In the following paragraphs, I will detail the process of incorporating a virtual tour into a class. I propose a three-step cycle consisting of a lecture, VR tour, and learning game. For the initial step, lectures should be kept concise, ideally around 20 minutes, since attention tends to wane after 15 to 20 minutes of continuous lecturing. Moreover, I recommend integrating “VR activation questions” into the lectures. These questions serve to stimulate student engagement by encouraging them to seek answers during the subsequent VR tour. In the second step, I suggest starting with a short VR tour session, around 5 to 10 minutes, particularly for VR novices, and gradually increasing session length as tolerance develops. As for VR materials, options include utilizing content from YouTube VR, producing your own materials with a 360-degree video camera, or accessing libraries of VR materials with institutional licenses. Lastly, the third step involves using gamification to sustain high engagement levels after the VR tour. In this regard, I use various web-based tools that allow users to create interactive games, such as Mentimeter. Each three-step cycle should ideally last 30 to 40 minutes, allowing instructors to repeat these cycles to utilize the allotted class time effectively. The objective of organizing this three-step cycle is to reduce the likelihood of student disengagement, as it can have a detrimental impact on the learning experience.

The image illustrates the integration of VR tours into lectures through a three-step approach.

 

Examples of VR-Centric IB Courses

I will share two examples of VR-Centric IB undergraduate courses at Georgia State University; the first is an undergraduate course named “Management in Central America: Panama and Costa Rica.” I designed and taught this course. It emphasizes two pivotal theoretical themes: the intricacies of global supply chains and the imperative of sustainability in business practices. In addressing global supply chains, the associated virtual tour is in Panama. Panama’s strategic geographical location, robust infrastructure, and pivotal role in international trade offer a rich context for students to delve into the intricacies of supply chain logistics, trade routes, and interconnectivity among global markets. In this VR-centric experience, the students participate in lectures delivered by the instructor and global supply chain practitioners based in Panama, take part in a virtual tour of the Panama Canal and other sites aligned with the learning objectives, and finally, play learning games as indicated in the three-step approach explained earlier.

This image depicts a VR tour of the iconic Panama Canal, a marvel of modern engineering stretching approximately 50 miles (80 kilometers) across the Isthmus of Panama. This engineering masterpiece connects the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, facilitating the transit of ships between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean without the need for lengthy and hazardous voyages around the southern tip of South America.

 

In addressing sustainability in business, the chosen virtual tour destination is Costa Rica. With a significant portion of its land designated as protected areas, national parks, and wildlife reserves, the country boasts rich biodiversity and serves as a living laboratory for studying sustainable ecosystem management. Moreover, Costa Rica has set ambitious targets for renewable energy production, with a considerable portion of its electricity sourced from renewable sources such as hydroelectric, wind, and solar power.

As part of this learning experience, the students also engage in hands-on, immersive team projects utilizing Arthur Technologies’ workspaces, tackling authentic business cases from companies in both Panama and Costa Rica. For a glimpse into this course experience, you’re invited to watch the following brief promotional video: https://youtu.be/auVhLmpHlgQ. 

The second example I would like to share is related to my undergraduate course, “Doing Business in World Regions: Europe.” Throughout this course, lectures are complemented by virtual tours of key European cities. These virtual visits are crucial in achieving our learning objectives by providing students with immersive experiences of diverse European cultures, economies, and business environments. For a more comprehensive understanding of the European Virtual Tour and how students reacted to it, you’re invited to watch a concise promotional video here: https://youtu.be/ZRa23SkdXUU.

In this photograph, my students are gearing up to delve into a virtual tour as they participate in the course, “Doing Business in World Regions: Europe.”

 

Furthermore, in alignment with our structured three-step approach, the course integrates learning games explicitly tailored to enhance the learning experience.  The following video shows a brief demonstration of one of the games developed for this course: https://youtu.be/NsA83DHE0yA.

 

Final Reflections on My VR Journey

The positive feedback from students in the courses mentioned above, coupled with the rapid advancements and global acceptance of immersive technology, strongly suggest that Virtual Reality (VR) will soon become integral to most IB courses. Consequently, I encourage IB educators who have yet to explore the potential of this immersive technology to begin sooner rather than later. Additionally, for instructors already integrating VR into their courses, I urge them to share their experiences and best practices so we can collectively maximize the potential of VR in IB education.

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Dr. Evaristo Doria is a Principal Senior Lecturer in International Business at Georgia State University. Renowned for his outstanding teaching abilities, Dr. Doria has received numerous accolades, including the prestigious 2021–2022 Georgia State University Instructional Innovation Award and the esteemed 2023 Georgia State University – J. Mack Robinson College of Business Faculty Recognition Award. Additionally, he is the co-author of four books on business strategy. Before his tenure in academia, Dr. Doria spent over 20 years as a senior business expatriate executive for one of the world’s most admired American multinational corporations, working in over 20 countries. He holds a doctoral degree in education. E-mail: edoria@gsu.edu