Virtual Reality Specialty offered by Goldsmiths, Univ of London, via – FINISHED

I finally completed the VR Specialty being offered by Goldsmiths, University of London via

The course is taught by Dr Sylvia Xueni Pan, Lecturer and Dr Marco Gillies, Senior Lecturer – both of the Department of Computing at Goldsmiths.

There are five courses in the specialty:

  1. Introduction to Virtual Reality
  2. 3D Models for Virtual Reality
  3. 3D Interaction Design in Virtual Reality
  4. Building Interactive 3D Characters and Social VR
  5. Making Your First Virtual Reality Game

It is considered a Beginner level specialization.

What I liked most about the five course series:

  • Most of all, I enjoyed learning both the technical and non-technical aspects of the topic very much. I’m passionate about VR and it was clear the educators were professionally passionate about it!
  • Loved learning about the psychology and other aspects of Virtual Reality, so much more to learn here.
  • I liked the hands on demonstrations of Unity and enjoyed developing new skills and did so with all the instruction and hands on experience using Unity. I feel I have a good foundation now to keep progressing on my own.
  • I liked the challenging exercises and felt they were appropriate but must admit by Course 3 I felt like I was mostly on my own to figure out how to do them which would be fine except sometimes you just need to ask a question or two for clarification or a little help. Not having this led to feelings of doubt and being overwhelmed. But thanks to watching lots of YouTube videos and reading other materials (some of which was provided via the course) I managed to complete the projects whereupon I felt pretty elated at my success. This problem of going it alone was due to the variety of VR systems and everyone being able to choose their own. I chose HTC Vive because that’s what I have.
  • I liked all the information provided about additional resources and where to find things like free sounds, free animations, etc.
  • I liked Dr Gillies and Dr Pan’s enthusiasm.

What I disliked most about the five course series:

  • I didn’t like the lack of support by the education team. There was either none or untimely responses when I need them which led to frustration.
  • I also felt it would have been beneficial to have student groups which could mutually support each other. An in-person classroom situation would have offered this.  How cool would it be to meet up in a virtual world for office hours. That could have been done in someplace pretty much anyone could access like SANSAR.
  • The discussion forums aren’t much help because they are so compartmentalized.
  • Course 5 was odd… there was very little instruction. It was primarily videos of others working or teaching in VR and IEEE. The time was allocated mostly for creation of the final project – my first VR game.
  • There is a some coverage of testing in Course 5 and another, i think, which was overall very lacking. They had an opportunity to discuss how a proper test plan can start based on requirements and then  tracing the requirements through the game development to final test cases. Maybe I’m a stickler about that because I’ve been a test manager but if you’re going to talk in some detail about storyboarding in design phase – why not then talk in more detail about test plans? I thought that was a serious omission.
  • I also didn’t like the fact that just because there were not enough student peers to review the projects meant I had to shift to the next flight of the course. That cost me an extra $50 (month of Coursera).
  • The transcripts are chock full of typos and are quite inconsistently formatted. Someone really needs to fix those.
  • Last but not least – I created my own Glossary as I went along. It would have been helpful if the education staff had provided that.

Not regarding liking or disliking I’d also add the following:

  • The time required for the course and the exercises was more than advertised. Much more. They stated 3-5 hours per week, I was double or triple that.  And even the courses themselves were not exact that way because Course 5 is six weeks, not four weeks.  Someone working long hours and with a robust life outside work might find the course extremely challenging to complete within the deadline time constraints.
  • All the exercises and projects are graded by peers / the others taking the course, not the instructors. I didn’t see any participation by Gillies or Pan in any of the forums or reviews. I think their involvement is limited to the instructional videos only.

It might seem like I’m overly complaining but the truth is that overall the course was very good. I’m glad I took it and I’d highly recommend it to others, it just needs some refinement.

Just to share –
Here is my animated, interactive woman from the Course 4 final project:

2017-12-28 12-05-48 from K Garcia on Vimeo.

And here is my “final VR game” project from Course 5:

Final Game from K Garcia on Vimeo.

(I’m bummed you can’t hear the in-game sounds in this recording but not something I’m going to debug since it actually works in game.)

TIP: Download all that you can for future reference because once you finish a course you won’t have access to the information any longer.

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