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2 minutes to read Posted on Wednesday April 19, 2023

Updated on Monday November 6, 2023

portrait of Isabel Crespo

Isabel Crespo

Former Business Development Coordinator, Education , Europeana Foundation

Nine things you need to know about immersive technologies for education: part II

If you are a cultural heritage professional and wonder what immersive technologies have to do with education, or how they can help you to engage with young audiences, look no further than this Pro news series! Over three posts and through a focus on Europeana’s Built with Bits programme, we will answer the question: why use immersive technologies in education?

Screenshot of digital space in Europeana hubs with words Pace and Peace Square
Caprera War and Peace Museum’ space on Mozilla Hubs
screenshot. L. Palumbo

Immersive technologies like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality reality (AR) create distinct experiences by merging the physical world with the digital. They offer the opportunity to engage audiences with cultural heritage in new ways, and offer exciting possibilities for education. 

These possibilities have been fully demonstrated by Built with Bits, a mentoring programme and educational challenge for students and educators, organised by the Europeana Initiative. The second edition, run by partners Macedonia Studio, took part in the second half of 2022. It trained 262 students and 19 educators and cultural heritage professionals to use Mozilla Hubs (a virtual world platform) to develop virtual spaces which used cultural heritage resources to offer a creative solution for a local issue. In doing so, the programme fostered collaborations between schools, universities, local museums and libraries, digital artists and UX designers, researchers, historians, architects, local authorities and tourism centres.

The projects developed for the programme are varied and inspiring and provide rich answers to the question: why use immersive technologies in education? 

4. They can bring together institutions to work on common projects for the sake of the community. 

The library of the ‘Lucian Blaga’ University of Sibiu, Romania, is an educational, scientific, and cultural institution of major importance in the city. It has an academic community of approximately 14,000 people who offer information and documentation services for the entire local community. As part of Built with Bits, the library worked with a group of 10 students from the local 'Gheorghe Lazăr National College to create an online space which reimagined the library, ensuring that it better met the needs of people with disabilities and making it more welcoming for students. 

Camelia Mihaela Volosciuc, Head of Service at the university wanted to participate in the Built with Bits programme in order to, ‘reconfigure the library space in accordance with the principles and values promoted by the European Commission within the New European Bauhaus program, such as aesthetics, sustainability, and inclusivity, to better meet the needs of people with disabilities in Sibiu’. 

Monica-Maria Oancea, the teacher coordinating the students’ involvement, underlined how the programme demonstrated that all students could get involved in supporting their community. 'In the Romanian language there is a saying - man sanctifies the place! It refers to the fact that no matter where you are born, what family you come from, regardless of the degree of social welfare, you can do something good, sustainable, thorough and responsible, if only you care.’

The Reconfiguration of the library space at Lucian Blaga University was awarded the Best Cultural Heritage Institution Collaboration to recognise the synergies between the university library and the ‘Gheorghe Lazăr’ National College. 

5. With immersive technologies, you can make original and creative reuse of some of the digital collections on More than 40% of these have licences that allow for educational use. 

An example of this reuse could be found in the project Caprera War and Peace Museum, a collaborative effort from 171 students of teachers Luigia Palumbo (IC Capozzi-Galilei - Valenzano), Daniela Brogna (IC Pimentel Fonseca - Pontecagnano), Maria Luisa Onida (IIS Leonardo Da Vinci - Lanusei), and external designer Estefany Duran Fonseca. To reinforce the rigorous historical approach, Mattia Collaro, Councillor of Assam (Association for studies of military history and architecture) and Dr. Giuseppe Spinetti, graduate in Architecture at the University of Florence, also collaborated on the project. 

For the Museum, students and teachers created a fascinating and complex space which presents several items from the First World War collection in The items focus on user generated content, including sentimental postcards written during the war, which were digitised and contributed by citizens all over Europe. The project received the Best Europeana Use project for their original choice of materials. 

Luigia Palumbo tells us, ‘this project aimed to explore the recovery, conversion and enhancement of Monte Rasu battery, a large and beautiful military fortress of the late 19th century (now abandoned) located in Caprera. I proposed it because I am interested in educational projects aimed at civil coexistence, including the redevelopment of the territory. We created a virtual museum which aimed to emphasise the "man" beyond the soldier with objects that illustrated their daily life; invite the visitor to immerse themselves in the site’s outdoor spaces; and encourage them to build a better future through understanding the past. 

6. You can build intercultural bridges with any country in any part of the world. There are no borders!

Increasing the amount of available resources online on Vietnamese art and culture was the main priority of Dr. Emma Duester, Ondris Pui and Michal Teague, lecturers at RMIT University Vietnam School of Communication & Design. They wanted their virtual space to deal with ‘global inequalities of digital ex/inclusion and the issue of most images online about Vietnam relating to war and beaches’. 

With Vietnamese Betel Nut Culture and Tradition they’ve developed a virtual environment that ‘can be used for education purposes, enhance connections with potential audiences locally and internationally, as well as giving Vietnamese people the agency to create and circulate their own story about their culture’. 

Their space was awarded with the Best Beyond Borders project. Read more about their collaboration with the Vietnamese Women's Museum

Screenshot of the entrance to the Vietnamese Betel Nut Culture Built with Bits project in Mozilla hubs
Screenshot of Mozilla hubs from Vietnamese Betel Nut Culture Built with Bits project. Permission given for Europeana reuse.
Emma Duester
Screenshot of the entrance to the Vietnamese Betel Nut Culture Built with Bits project in Mozilla hubs

Find out more and get involved!

We hope that this post has convinced you of the value of immersive technologies in education, and shown you what has been achieved in the Built with Bits programme! But if not, never fear - you can read the first three reasons and keep an eye on Europeana Pro news for the next three, coming soon. 

You can find out more about the training, resources and activities which the Europeana Initiative provides for educators on our Education page. And if you would like to learn more about working with Mozilla hubs, you can explore the Built with Bits tutorials.