I believe teaching could be more fun and learning could be more fun. I believe there are different categories of students; there are students that learn one way and students that learn another way. I also believe that multimedia technologies like virtual reality, for instance gaming, has the potential to engage students. That’s what my PhD is about: how to make teaching easier for teachers and learning easier for students, so I’m trying to research immersive multimedia technologies and how it’s going to be best used.
The aim of my project is to build a gaming platform where, like an innovation lab, students would come in and try to solve a particular problem, or brainstorm how to solve a particular challenge given by their tutors. So I need to develop a VR software that can aid this.
At the moment students are sitting back and they’re not actively involved in lectures. My research would hopefully bring about a change that might be gradual, but that benefits graduates and therefore society as a whole. I think that universities have to change the model of education currently, because many people graduate and they’re not fully prepared for the outside world; they should consciously make efforts to make education more student-centred, more interesting.
Frankly, I think the educational system uses a one size fits all approach and so in my PhD I’m trying to look for ways to customize learning for different people. Everyone has the same types of exams or essays and that’s it, I think there should more creative ways to evaluate students. I think that the current system for students doesn’t really prepare them for the outside world and I think we need to look more into that, because I found myself in that situation and that’s what triggered the creativity in me; I felt like the world needs creativity and people that can adapt easily, not just people who are told what to say and how to say it in a particular way.
I think my interest in this came from my own learning challenges; during my undergrad days, myself and my colleagues would talk after classes and often people would say things like, “I didn’t really understand what the teacher was saying”, or “I didn’t really get that part of the lecture”. I’m someone that gets bored easily, like I sit down in lectures and I find myself trying to do something to make people laugh and I thought “why isn’t this the normal classroom?”. I like thinking outside the box, it’s just a part of me, I like to be different. I’m also an artist, I do a lot of drawing and painting, and I felt creativity was lacking in education. In education you’re mostly told what to do and you’re not meant to challenge things, you’re not meant to ask questions, but I feel that’s the way forward for education; you need a learning environment where you don’t just sit back and think what you’re told is right, but instead you do ask questions and you try to create a new ‘right’. I don’t think that anybody is unintelligent, I think it’s just that you’re not connecting to that style of teaching, so if teaching could respect individuals for what they represent and find better ways to connect to them, then I believe the future will be bright for education.
There’s a stereotype that computer scientists have to be nerdy; you have to just sit down, boxed up, typing code somewhere. But I think it can be more fun, for instance I’m an artist and I’m looking for ways of embedding art into computer science, because why can’t there be a blend of both? Why can’t computer science have research with people in sports, or arts, or film? I think computer science can give the opportunity to create something new. Especially in these internet days, where everything is moving fast and everything is going online, things have to change, change is constant. And I think human beings are best when they are creative, we have this potential in us, that’s what makes us unique. In my PhD, I’ve tried to find my own way of creating the new out of the old.
The best way to predict the future is to invent it, in a world which changes constantly, you either adapt to the change that is coming or you create that change yourself.