Have you ever wondered how it feels to literally dive into a virtual world? My name is Luisa Fiedler and some weeks ago, I had the chance to take part in a virtual reality lecture. It was the first time for me, trying virtual reality and besides that, combining it with a hybrid lecture. For that reason, I initially felt overwhelmed and overstrained at the same time. Exploring different worlds in AltspaceVR and experiencing a real lecture in virtual reality was for sure an exciting adventure – let’s undergo it together!
What is Social Virtual Reality?
“Social Virtual Reality is a web-based social interaction paradigm, mediated by immersive technologies and taking place in predesigned three-dimensional virtual worlds where individuals, represented by an avatar, may engage in real-time interpersonal conversation and shared activities.” 
How did we get the VR-Headset?
Within the module MELE (Marketing Elective), our lecturer Thomas Zorbach sent us several instructions via e-mail some days before the excursion started. Therein, he informed us about the delivery process of the Oculus Quest All-in-One VR-Headset which was delivered to the house of each student. Also, Thomas Zorbach included in the post-delivery some tutorials and manuals in order to facilitate the immersion into the virtual world.
How were the first steps?
As soon as we received the VR-Headset, we had to download the app “First Steps” in the Headset and choose the app “AltspaceVR”. Unfortunately, due to a configuration problem on the part of the Headset providers, the installation was not that easy. However, after trying out and exchanging with fellow students, it finally was possible to connect the VR-Headset with the mobile phone and to start the virtual journey.
How were my first impressions?
After everything was installed, I was wearing the VR-Headset and was literally standing in a modern glass igloo somewhere in Scandinavia – above me the sky full of stars and northern lights. I didn’t expect the environment around me to be that authentic and thus was amazed by the view. After enjoying that harmonic atmosphere, I opened AltspaceVR, the app where the lecture should take place. When I arrived at my virtual apartment in AltspaceVR, I needed to create my personal avatar. Interestingly, as I moved my hands in the real world, my avatar did the same simultaneously due to the controllers. Even the eyes of my avatar precisely followed my movements from the real world. Besides that, there were several functions such as unmuting yourself so that other people can communicate with you, reacting with diverse emojis, taking selfies as well as photos, and many other interactive tools.
What did we do in AltspaceVR?
After trying out several activities like playing basketball or igniting fireworks, I went to the Campfire – the place to be – where different people from all over the world meet to hang out. Very quickly, I found myself having conversations with internationals who helped me get used to all the different functions. Later, we met with the class and Thomas Zorbach in the Campfire as a meeting point. You can imagine how funny it is to see all your friends and fellow students in virtual reality and to guess who is who as well as chatting with them. After further explanations by the lecturer, we started our trip and discovered several worlds, including a user-generated Subway restaurant, the Burning Man festival, and many other crazy worlds. Also, we learned how to fly through the sky. On the next day, we continued our excursion, met again at the Campfire and ultimately went to a special conference hall which was designed by a colleague of Thomas Zorbach. After taking a seat in the audience, our professor gave his lecture about Marketing. During that virtual lecture, we were able to interactively contribute to the lesson like in real lectures thanks to the various functions. After the lecture, we returned to real life, to finish our lecture via Microsoft Teams.
How did it feel like to be in the virtual world?
Surprisingly, it felt extremely real to walk around and discover the many possibilities in the virtual world. With the Oculus Quest on my head, I really had the impression that I was in Scandinavia, at the Burning Man festival or in the outer space – it was exceptionally authentic!
What were the main differences between the VR lecture and classroom/ online lecture?
The main differences were that a VR lecture feels more creative than an online lecture. Unlike online lectures, it’s much easier to stay focused as the VR-Headset blocks out all external distractions. On top of that, you feel more enticed to participate in VR lectures than in online lectures because it’s interesting and funny to try out all of the functions, like reacting with emojis when someone contributes something to the lecture. Compared to face-to-face lectures, VR lectures cannot keep up with them, as reality is still the best reality in my mind. At the end of the day though, I would prefer a hybrid solution between VR lectures and classroom lectures, or between VR lectures and online lectures. In doing so, one could reap the benefits of each version.
What are the limitations and possibilities of VR lectures?
In my experience, a huge limitation to virtual reality is the massive headache that ensues after hours of use. Nonetheless, the more you use it, the less they occur. Other than that, VR lectures enable you to feel very close to your fellow students even though they are on the other side of the world in some cases. Especially during Corona times, when our everyday life is affected by monotonous home studying and less human contact than normal, virtual reality gives you a feeling of “coming together”.
Which central conclusion did I gain during the VR lecture?
Finally, I can say that it was a fascinating and unique experience to take part in a virtual lecture and I would love to do it again in the future. In my opinion, the possibilities outweigh the limitations and that’s why I’m optimistic that it was not my last time moving around in virtual realities and having VR lectures – maybe I will even meet you there next time! ?
Article by Luisa Fiedler *LF – International Business – Intercultural Management (B.A.), 5th Semester
 Dzardanova, E., Kasapakis, V., Gavalas, D. (2018). Social Virtual Reality. In: Lee, N. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Computer Graphics and Games. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-08234-9_204-1