Ancient History students explore the Colosseum in Virtual Reality

Teaching Ancient History often heavily relies on textual sources. Fragile objects are kept in museums and historical places have long vanished. But new technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) offer a number of possibilities for teaching the past.

VR not only allows the virtual handling of objects but also the reconstruction of entire places. Dr Christina Kuhn, Tutorial Fellow and Associate Professor in Ancient History at Lady Margaret Hall and the Oxford Classics Faculty, recently explored these facets of VR in her teaching, using the University’s brand-new virtual reality headset kit ClassVR. She brought several fully immersive virtual reality experiences to her classroom: students explored the Roman Colosseum, handled 3D objects drawn from Cabinet and experienced a 360° educational video. They even witnessed a gladiatorial combat while standing in the arena of the Colosseum. 

After the session, students commented that virtual reality “really brought the past to life in a way that usually static reconstructions in other visual media do not, and I don’t think, even could”. They further valued that the Virtual Reality experience "provided a memorable and enhanced understanding of the atmosphere, political culture and ordinary life experience of Ancient Rome.”

Dr Kuhn will continue to explore VR in her teaching, supported by the University's team of learning technologists. 

Now that we know that the new technology is working smoothly in a traditional teaching context, we look forward to exploring its potential as an extra tool in teaching, outreach and research more widely.

Dr Christina Kuhn, Tutorial Fellow and Associate Professor at Lady Margaret Hall and Oxford Classics

Students at Lady Margaret Hall wearing VR headsets to explore Ancient Rome in their History class

Students handling objects with the help of VR headsets and QR cubes.

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