Developing inclusive AR and VR learning

Inclusive Design student exploring VR prototype
Inclusive Design student Nikki To (right) exploring VR technology with Priya Karthick  (left), research assistant for the projec
Friday, November 22, 2019 - 2:30pm

The primary aim of this project is to use consumer-level virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies and other existing remote learning tools to include remotely located students in hands-on design prototyping.

This past summer, graduate students in Art, Design, and Communication and the Cognitive Semiotics Lab at OCAD U explored various ways to use AR/VR technologies in their learning and design/prototyping process. This included a presentation on inclusive design given to undergraduate students at Ontario Tech, where they learned about inclusive design opportunities and process. Some of these students went on to use VR technology to expand on an inclusive design project – a multisensory globe for blind and low vision readers, by Uttara Ghodke, a graduate of the Inclusive Design program and recipient of the last year’s president’s award.  

In addition, online and in-person workshops, learning resources and support/mentorship on AR/VR prototyping with Unity, a software for VR and AR content development, were provided by team members at Ontario Tech. 

Why is this important? Online education aims to include students regardless of their geographic locations, as long as they have internet connections and compatible hardware. It can make education more accessible and inclusive for students with diverse learning needs. In addition, reducing the requirement to travel to a physical location for classes can make online education more cost-effective for students and universities.

Within the context of design education, online students miss out on crucial hands-on prototyping experiences that on-campus students benefit from. In a typical course that includes a focus on design prototyping, for example, students engage in 3D printing, laser cutting and shop fabrication. Students are frequently involved in testing and evaluating each design iteration, requiring them to interact with and manipulate physical prototypes.

While online students may be able to present some aspects of their physical prototypes through video-conferencing and 3D CAD models, many remotely located classmates are not able to touch, feel and manipulate the physical prototypes, as designed. As a result, online design students are excluded from many hands-on aspects of design education. This project aims to address this gap. 

The team is planning to nurture additional collaborative communication between students in the classes at Ontario Tech and OCAD U. For example, inclusive design students will further explore how VR/AR and other remote learning tools may enhance hands-on design prototyping experience in Lab 1: Design Opportunities.

Meeting employer talent needs: one conversation, multiple skill sets

ontechu + ocadu partnership
Friday, November 22, 2019 - 2:30pm

Employers now have a single touchpoint to draw on the talent pools at both OCAD U and Ontario Tech University. OCAD U’s Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers and Ontario Tech’s Career Centre have joined forces to meet the advanced needs of recruiters and collaborators. This uniquely coordinated approach between institutions means they can offer the opportunity to have one conversation about the full scope of employers’ needs, giving them access to the broadest possible range of talent solutions.

“There is growing interest amongst employers to hire multi-disciplinary talent. Our collaboration aims to help employers find this talent by bringing together and bundling the complementary programs and skills sets of our respective students,” said project lead Monica Jain, Director, Careers, Counselling and Accessibility, Ontario Tech University.

Employers are invited to connect with either of the career development teams at Ontario Tech or OCAD U. Specialized staff will take employers through a tailored, exploratory process which will add value to their recruitment drive by making comprehensive recommendations as to how they can engage with students and recent alumni across both institutions.

“With this approach, both employers and students can gain exposure to opportunities that may not have otherwise been available,” said project lead Zev Farber, Director, Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers, OCAD University.

An overview of this initiative is available online and a full website, including an employer needs assessment, will be going live this month. The partnership was featured at Ontario Tech University career fair on October 3 and will be featured again at their upcoming career fair on November 29. A variety of upcoming skill-sharing events will begin during the winter semester through to the annual Graduating Student Exhibition in May at OCAD U.

Students collaborate on VR design

Professor Veronika Szkudlarek (OCADU) teaches a materials workshop for participants to explore painting and sculpture before fur
Group of VRTO participants making analogue paintings and sculptures to be imported into virtual space
Friday, November 22, 2019 - 2:30pm

Students from OCAD U and Ontario Tech University had a unique opportunity to collaborate in a virtual reality design workshop at VRTO – The Virtual and Augmented Reality World Conference and Expo (June 1 to 3, 2019). In addition to student attendees at the workshop, the event included joint OCAD U and Ontario Tech teams of students facilitating, and in some cases leading, sessions. Participants were invited to “jump into the digital human experience,” with no prior experience required. All that was needed was a “willingness to learn and an interest in VR.”

The first workshop of its kind in the partnership, the thirty attendees worked together on a VR development team while designing a basic VR experience using common industry tools and applications. Veronika Szkudlarek, assistant professor in the Drawing and Painting department at OCAD U, led a hybrid painting-VR workshop. Participants used materials and textures to make objects using acrylic paint, canvas and pastels that were then 3D scanned and placed into virtual environments. The juxtaposition between analogue mark-making and the 3D space was explored. 

“The workshop offered an important opportunity for students to explore and collaborate on technologies likely to have a profound effect on the way we live and work,” said Alexis Morris, assistant professor in the Digital Futures program at OCAD University, and the Canada Research Chair (Tier II) in the Internet of Things. “It was a great opportunity for creatives and technologists to collaborate on common goals.”

Together with Andrew Hogue, associate professor in the Faculty of Business and Information Technology in the Game Development and Entrepreneurship program at Ontario Tech University, Morris led a planning committee that included faculty from both universities to collaborate on the workshop, bringing a variety of interests to the table.

The workshop also provided an opportunity for organizers to explore the concept of VR developer badges, where a workshop like this one could potentially lead toward a future microcredential in VR development.

Held in Toronto, VRTO is a unique, international exhibition of virtual reality and augmented reality, and a professional conference and solutions-focused symposium exploring arts, culture, society, humanities, ethics and sciences through immersive technologies.


VRTO Update

Friday, November 22, 2019 - 3:15pm

As part of the OCADU and Ontario Tech (UOIT) Digital Human Experience initiatives, please be aware of the upcoming VRTO development workshop on designing VR experiences. This fantastic VR development learning opportunity will be colocated with the Virtual Reality Toronto Conference. In partnership with OCAD U, Ontario Tech student participants will be engaged in a 1-day intensive workshop, held on May 31, 2019, letting you jump into immersive VR design and development. During the workshop you will be part of a collaborative, interdisciplinary team of both developers and non-developers that will create a new VR artifact, and will go through the development cycle from design to development to assessment, using Unity3D and industry-standard VR hardware, provided at the workshop. Bring your passion and interest in VR and learn to transform this into engaging virtual experiences.

VRTO, Ontario Tech, and OCAD U have made 20 spaces at the workshop available for students, with a 50% discount (total of $22.60 per ticket). To register, go to and enter the discount code VRTO19UniStdntWkrshp. Participants can also gain access to the entire VRTO conference at a discounted price (80% off the regular price with the following discount code: VRTO19WrkShpExtn20, available after May 1, 2019). This unique professional conference and solutions-focused symposium, held June 1-3, 2019, is an exciting opportunity for students to engage with industry. We look forward to your participation.

Why Canada's universities must be at the forefront of innovation

Friday, November 22, 2019 - 3:15pm

Go to external news story. Graduates entering the workforce simply must have the skills necessary to thrive in an economy balancing human needs and technological change

OCAD University and Ontario Tech University launch new partnership 

President Diamond and President Murphy with students
Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The province’s leading universities focused on technology and design have teamed up to forge a new model for the delivery of post-secondary education in Ontario: together OCAD U and Ontario Tech University will develop dynamic new ways of learning, curriculum, programs and research capacities.

“Through this three–year pilot partnership, Ontario Tech University and OCAD U will combine our expertise to develop new, efficient ways of teaching and learning,” says Dr. Steven Murphy, Ontario Tech University President. “This relationship aligns with the Government of Ontario’s economic and skills development strategies, and will provide great benefits to industry, students and faculty.” 

Art and design are in-demand disciplines that engineering, computer science, health and other areas of science require to establish creative approaches in their fields. 

“Today’s rapidly-evolving workforce needs the combined power of creativity and science. Artists and designers seek knowledge of science, engineering, data fluency and emerging technologies to better support current and future industries,” says Dr. Sara Diamond, OCAD U President. “I know other universities will want to apply the outcomes of this model to their institutions.”

The universities will provide and promote opportunities for students at both institutions to easily enrol in courses and transfer credits beginning in September 2019. 

 Six projects will launch this year:

  • Consultative talent assessment: Career development centres at both universities will work together so that employers can access the talent pool of both institutions.
  • Joint career events for senior students, such as career and employer networking events, and “reverse career fair” in Toronto with both partners. 
  • A joint series of “badges” leading to microcredentials in Virtual Reality (VR) development. 
  • A student-led workshop at VRTO, the Virtual and Augmented Reality World Conference and Expo in Toronto June 1 to 3.
  • New online project-based courses that use consumer-level VR to allow remotely located students to do hands-on prototyping in a network of maker spaces.  
  • A two-week workshop series on “Technopoetics, where students will produce films in “essayistic” style using motion capture techniques. 

Future initiatives will include upskilling and reskilling initiatives, collaborative programs and research, as well as shared resource models.  

For more information on the partnership and upcoming projects visit our websites: or

Joint Career Events

Project Summary: This project will provide OCAD U and Ontario Tech students who are in their final two years of study with new career opportunities through various career and employer networking events, such as the Graduate Exhibition (GradEx) at OCAD U and the Reverse Career Fair at Ontario Tech. The emphasis here will also include guidance on early-company formation. As a physical touchpoint, students will have ongoing access to resources and services at OCAD University’s Experiential Learning Centre and Ontario Tech’s Career Centre in order to explore deeper professional opportunities. Through this initiative, students will have access to advanced skill-sharing and networking, as well as a broader range of employers in different sectors and across a wider geographical area. There will also be more opportunities to form companies and create jobs.

Project Leads: Zev Farber, Director, Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers (OCAD U)

Project Team: Darren Lafreniere (Ontario Tech), Monica Jain (Ontario Tech), Miles Collyer (OCAD U)

Consultative Talent Assessment

Project Summary: Through Consultative Talent Assessment, employers looking for talent can have their needs assessed from both a design (OCAD U) and STEM (Ontario Tech) perspective, and then receive recommendations, connecting these employers to individual students at both institutions who meet those requirements. In this way, both employers and students can gain exposure to opportunities that may not otherwise be available. This approach offers a single touchpoint for employers to draw on the talent pools at both OCAD U and Ontario Tech in a seamless and collaborative way, which is not their experience at most larger universities.

Project Leads: Zev Farber, Director, Centre for Emerging Artists & Designers (OCAD U)

Project Team: Darren Lafreniere (Ontario Tech), Monica Jain (Ontario Tech), Miles Collyer (OCAD U)

Student-Led Workshop at VRTO

Project Summary: VRTO — The Virtual and Augmented Reality World Conference and Expo, takes place June 1-3 in Toronto. It is the largest immersive technologies conference in Canada, and is a one-of-a-kind symposium for experiential media and tech. A team of students from both institutions will develop content and deliver it to a workshop audience at VRTO, where participants will experience being part of a VR development team and will design a basic VR experience using common industry tools and applications.

Project Leads: Andrew Hogue (Ontario Tech)

Microcredential: Badge in VR Development

Project Summary: Open Badges are used worldwide to recognize learning, both in and outside of formal educational institutions as well as online, and were designed to meet unmet credential needs — to highlight the mosaic of skills and knowledge people have, which are often hard to communicate on a transcript or CV. Students can struggle to articulate exactly where their strengths lie, particularly when speaking with employers in job interviews. Open Badges provide specific, measurable, and verifiable evidence that a student possesses certain skills and abilities, and allow students to choose how to display their skills to potential employers and others, presenting them in changing combinations to reflect their evolving learning and interests.

Through the Digital Human Experience, Ontario Tech and OCAD U will launch a joint series of badges, leading to a microcredential in VR Development. Students will work to showcase their experience in three main areas: Design, Develop, and Do. This will allow them to show proficiency in key areas of the development of virtual reality experiences, with an emphasis on the application of skills.

Project Leads: Alexis Morris (OCAD U), Andrew Hogue (Ontario Tech)