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Thursday, June 8 • 3:50pm - 4:10pm
Plague of Athens | an XR learning experience (emerging tech for education)

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Based out of Northwestern University in Qatar—and involving a talented, interdisciplinary team from around the world—Plague of Athens is an XR learning experience designed to enhance student understanding of the role of pandemics in world history. The Plague of Athens web app features advanced web animation, digital storytelling, and interactive learning. The VR version, built for the Oculus Quest 2, pushes new boundaries in terms of immersive history education.

Historical Context for COVID-19
Plague of Athens provides historical context for students about the challenges COVID-19 has presented to people around the world. The design of Plague of Athens is positioned at the nexus of innovative pedagogical, theoretical, and technological practices—including narrative studies, multimodal literacies, and game-based learning research. Synthesizing the best of history games, visual learning, interactive textbooks, and history apps, Plague of Athens introduces novel features, design elements, and affordances—demonstrating the effectiveness of applied educational research to enhance learning outcomes. The central question posed is whether—and to what degree—the innovative digital learning design of Plague of Athens will result in a measurable increase in student interest, engagement, and understanding of key concepts in epidemiology as well as the role of pandemics in world history. A secondary question is how to iterate product design to improve engagement and successful learning outcome metrics even further.

Plague of Athens immerses and engages students through meaningful choice and multimodal interaction design; provide systems-based interpretations that emphasize complexity, interdependencies, and causal connections; played out within a problem space that encourages students to perceive connections between past and present—making that understanding more visceral, tangible, and real—and in the process sparking enthusiasm for learning about the past. Plague of Athens offers an innovative solution for engaging millennial students and inspiring curiosity for learning about history--conecting to the conferenc theme of "creative, educational, and social implications of emerging technologies, including extended reality (AR/VR/MR)." This immersive, cross-platform digital learning experience introduces multiple novel technologies, including:
  • 3D Motion Design to Recreate History
  • Advanced Web Animation to Simulate Pathogens
  • Immersive 360 Panoramas of Historical Locations
  • Animated Historical Timeline & Maps
  • Choice-based Narrative Design
  • Interactive Original Historical Documents
  • Media-Rich Adaptive Assessments

Chapter 1 is called “To Do No Harm” and tells the story of Nikos of Athens, a physician during the Plague of Athens, 429 BCE, who struggles to treat the multitude who fall ill during this world-upending ordeal, causing him to question everything he holds dear, from his faith in Apollo, healer under the gods, to the meaning of his Hippocratic Oath, and what is truly at stake in medical ethics.

The Chromebook web app features cutting-edge digital learning design, web animation, interaction design, and digital storytelling: https://pandemics.historyadventures.app

The video walkthrough of the Web App for Chromebook can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/wZ-HVOJvqSs
Meanwhile, the VR version takes things to another level by guiding students through the streets of Athens during the worst of the ancient plague. The video walkthrough for the VR dev build can be found here: https://youtu.be/pTN2msFABaU


Spencer Striker

Associate Professor of Digital Media Design, Northwestern University in Qatar

Thursday June 8, 2023 3:50pm - 4:10pm EDT
ARC E-13