How to Deal with Disruption in VR Workshops and Events

Reggie Watts concert in AltspaceVR 2020.

In addition to hosting about 600 VR events annually, Educators in VR offers regular event hosting and moderation training sessions to help you integrate VR into your classes and training. This is not one of those guides.

This article is in response to another ongoing incident of trolling through social VR platforms. We are here to help you manage your public events on AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other VR and virtual social, events, and educational platforms, and that also means assisting you with understanding how to respond to disruption in public VR events and workshops.

Last year, in response to the Black Lives Matter protests and other civil unrest throughout the United States and the world, trolls with a focus on hate made their way through the VR metaverse, verbally attacking and disrupting public events and activities. With the uptick in violence in the US capital and across the United States and US inauguration, the trolls have returned.

VR social and event platforms have dramatically strengthened their security features, and continue to do so with every new assault. We survived last year’s attacks, and we will survive again.

We encourage you to continue exploring and using VR for educational purposes as it is one of the safest social places in the world right now. Where else can you bring together people from around the world to feel like they are together in person, to share, learn, and have fun together with zero chance of infection?

Let’s be really clear. We are not talking about users who are goofing around and seeking attention. Those are easily dealt with and often modify their behavior when invited to do so and understand what they are doing is a disruption. We are talking about those with a clear intent to do harm. As educators, we believe in communication and compassion when working with disruptive individuals. Unfortunately, this group doesn’t want to talk. They want to disrupt. Until they are willing to listen, we use our tools.

Virtual World Society Fireside Chat with Alvin Graylin and Tom Furness in AltspaceVR.

Here are tips for managing trolls in AltspaceVR and ENGAGE VR, similar to managing the experience on other platforms. Check the user guides (listed below) for other platforms to understand their event hosting and moderation features.

General Troll Awareness and Response Guide

Students in VR Weekly Meetup in AltspaceVR.Public events in VR are a fantastic way to reach an audience of new and experienced VR users, and to connect, teach, train, and socialize with global audience. As an event host, you set the tone for your event, including your moderation policies with your audience and moderators.

Some events have a moderate level of moderation, messaging users one or more times with warnings, or muting and allowing them to continue in the event without removal, anticipating a modification in their disruptive behavior.

Other events have a zero tolerance for disruption, and say so in the event description and at the start of the event. Any disruption will result in immediate removal, no warnings. Let your moderators know the level of moderation.

Irregardless of the moderation level, hate, rude, violent, and racist speech is unacceptable. Advise your moderators to remove anyone purposefully intent on disruption.

As a community that is enriched by this multi-cultural environment, there will be no tolerance for bigotry regarding any user’s race, nationality, spiritual beliefs, physical abilities or sexual orientation. Any language that is meant to defame or injure another user will result in an immediate suspension and determination as to whether the account will be closed permanently.

AltspaceVR Community Standards

Instant removal is key to preserving the intention and quality of your class or event. The metaverse trolls are bent on disruption and attention-seeking. They cannot harm us physically, so they do their best to let their violent and racist speech disrupt our experience.

As an event host, the key is to not let them distract you. Let your event moderators remove the trolls efficiently, apologize to your audience for the disruption, and stay on task.

For experienced teachers, this isn’t much different from classroom experiences. The joy in VR is that we have the tools to remove the disruptors so they don’t return. Come on, we know you want that in the real world.

The process to respond to a troll is:

  1. Mute first.
  2. Remove second.

Silencing them gives you time to report. If you try to remove them from the event first, there is a delay as you move through reporting menus, allowing them to continue to spew their vile words. Mute first. Kick second.

Both AltspaceVR and ENGAGE offer mute all features for events, muting the entire audience until you unmute them individually or en mass. We highly recommend activating that once the event begins to limit the number of open mics.

Name tag with inappropriate display name.As you and your moderators monitor the crowds, know that display names and user names are not indicative of a potential troll. Some people are either naive or tend to make bad decisions before being educated otherwise. Many trolls use “human” sounding names to avoid immediate detection. Same goes for avatar and clothing choices. They likely do not look like trolls.

Social VR platforms work hard to stay open and yet restrictive enough to make life a little more complicated for those intent on doing harm. Like our classrooms, it is always a fine line and challenge to maintain respect, control, tolerance, and freedom of expression.

Remember, this only impacts events that are open-to-the-public, not private. Many events remain troll-free.

AltspaceVR Hosting and Moderation Tools

The key to limiting the damage these verbal abuses is to use the Mute All feature in the Host Tools.

When you are ready for interactivity, turn on the Raise Hand feature to add a hand button to the lower right corner of the user’s screen. When clicked, the user is added to the Participation queue. Unmute them when it is their turn to speak, and mute them when done, removing them from the list to focus on the other audience questions or comments.

The ratio of moderators to audience members is about 1 to 15. Most events in AltspaceVR are limited to 30, so 2-3 moderators at this time is recommended. One or two is normally acceptable.

Have one moderator keep the Host Panel open to Participation or Open Mics. When a person speaks, they will see the vocal activity level on the screen. Click the hamburger lines to access the options for that individual. Mute first, then remove the speaker from the event if appropriate directly from the Host Panel screen. This prevents the need to chase them to grab their name tag for action as some experienced trolls move around quickly to avoid capture and action.

AltspaceVR Host Panel with participation and open mics.

Moderation Kick Remove and Report from AltspaceVR.After confirming the kick, ensure moderators select Trolling on the removal report. This sends a flag to the AltspaceVR staff on duty to track and monitor for trolling behavior and potentially act to remove them permanently.

Unfortunately, the removal is not permanent as some trolls create a new account and continue their attacks. We need to be just as persistent.

ENGAGE VR

Similar to AltspaceVR, public events in ENGAGE have the ability to offer various mute and removal features. So far, ENGAGE has seen few troll experiences.

ENGAGE VR Mute All feature.In the User Settings for the event hosts, there is an option to mute microphones with several options.

  • Mute All: Mutes all of the audience members.
  • Mute All But Allow UnMute: An option on the Mute All dialogue box allows users to unmute themselves.

If you are hosting an event open-to-the-public and you are unfamiliar with those entering, consider using only the first option.

ENGAGE VR Remove from Session panel.Among the other event hosting settings is the ability to moderate by removing someone from the session with the option to return, or banning them so they will not be able to return. There is no reporting system yet in ENGAGE so this is a fairly quick action.

Check their ENGAGE Events Guide for more specifics and instructions on their event hosting and moderation tools.

Fear VR Events Not

The issue of trolls is felt across all of the VR metaverse, unfortunately. There have also been Zoombombing attacks by trolls in Zoom and a few other public online conferencing platforms. As soon as their tricks are figured out, they move onto another platform, and so on.

We’ve all had disruptive and troublemaker students, and this is no different. Many of us still hold VR as a precious, protected space, so this feels different. Luckily, these are rare situations. For most, VR continues to be a transcendent experience for many users.

Educators in VR continues to host dozens of events a month in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other VR platforms. Come join us and ask us about hosting your own events and classes at the end of the event. You’ll find that social VR is safer than you think.

Educators in VR vCoaching and Personal Development event in AltspaceVR.

If you wish help supporting your event, consider hiring the Educators in VR production team for event management, moderation, and more. Our experienced team is here to help ensure your VR experience in education is safe and easy.

Lessons Learned from Over 100 VR English Lessons

Michael McDonald, TEFL-qualified English teacher from the UK and founder of the Gold Lotus language consultancy in Italy, and co-team leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage Arts Team Project and teaches English language skills in the new EDVR Institute.

After completing over 100 150 VR English lessons in AltspaceVR, Michael sheds some light on the lessons learned and reflections from the experience. His experiences will help future educators approach this new way of teaching as he shares his vision of how this technology can be the vehicle for positive change the global consciousness.

Gold Lotus in ENGAGE teaching restaurant and cafe use for English Language teaching.

What I have learned most from teaching over 100 English language lessons in Altspace is much more than how to teach a foreign language. It is how to exude inspiration for the benefit of my students, and how to raise an awareness and consciousness in the metaverse to be taken back into the physical realm.

In a nutshell, I’ve learned to be kinder and compassionate. I’ve learned that patience for teaching in VR requires a new level of commitment. Without a doubt, I’ve learned to trust my instincts, but also to step back and reevaluate my choices, listen, and look for clues in how to reach students in ways I never imagined. I’ve learned that there are infinite ways to immerse students in lifestyle, cultural, history, and society in general to explore language. I’ve learned that the technology for language learning is here, now, in virtual reality. Most of all, I’ve witnessed the ground-breaking revolution in VR for education, and I want to do more.

The experience however was not without its pitfalls, so let’s start with those first because we all love a happy ending.

Teaching Public Workshops is an Open Invitation to Everyone

In the early days of teaching in virtual reality I held the naïve belief that people would be better behaved in VR than they would be in, say, the asylum of many YouTube video comment sections.

ENGAGE VR - Exploring US Whitehouse with Gold LotusMy completely unscientific premise was grounded on the now comical belief that if people embodied a virtual avatar, with moving limbs and the ability talk to them and clearly reflect their emotions through virtual body language like hand gestures, head movements or physical proximity in real time, that this would serve as an antidote to idiocy, passive-aggressive behaviour or general naughtiness. My pseudo-scientific hypothesis was about as far from reality as the recent VR English lesson I did in ENGAGE taking a group of unmasked Norwegian students into the White House on the eve of the last US Presidential Election.

The reason I was wrong can be seen in everyday life. Open a bar in London. Many patrons on your premises will be welcomed. They come, guzzle their beverage of choice and leave. It won’t take long however before you see a different type of creature skulking its way through your door – intent on ridiculing the inexperienced member of staff struggling to grapple with the art that is pouring the perfect pint of Guinness, to others who have no regard for the sanctity of a public toilet. As someone who used to clean and then “pull pints” behind the bar of my local pub, I can only say that it was a harrowing yet valuable character-forming period of my life. The same can be said for venues like Altspace.

You literally see the best and worst (within reason) of humanity in social VR. In the last twelve weeks alone, I’ve virtually – no, really, virtually as in not physically, as opposed to “almost” (still with me?) – kicked out people for screaming and/or silently muttering the full array of English-language profanities, talking about self-pleasure or my pet hate: passive-aggressive behaviour in the form of continuous interruptions with vacuous comments or quips which are clearly designed to throw-off balance the harmony and good vibes of the learning and cultural exchange taking place.

Luckily, these incidents are uncommonly common and limited to events open to the public, thus, the open door policy for many pubs where anyone may walk through the doors, and often do.

Trusting Your Tingling Spidey Senses

Gold Lotus English Language Class - in the Bathroom - AltspaceVR.There are times, as with the drunken loon in your London bar, that you have to call in the heavies – in this case the deadly combination of hovering your VR controller or mouse (if on your PC) over the offender’s avatar and selecting the “kick” icon in their name tag, a privilege offered to events hosts and moderators. From there you select the explanation for removal from the event that best fits the crime. Simple. Kind of.

A few months ago I was teaching in Altspace to a group of around twenty people. It was 11am for me in Italy, meaning the room was filled with Europeans, Asians and the odd nocturnal North American. Native-English-speaking Californians, 2AM their time, are here to learn English. They seem to know each other due to the camaraderie among them. My spidey-senses are tingling. I give them the benefit of the doubt. After a short while the flatulence begins (them, not me). Farting noises ensue, from where they’re standing.

At this point the optimist in me is thinking that if I tell them to stop doing something, they’ll stop. Experience as a teacher dealing with children (or those who possess the mind of a child temporarily) tells me that “stop doing that” translates to “keep doing that”. Give them a second chance. Everyone deserves a sec… there’s fart number two. Without hesitation I slide my avatar towards the huddle where the noise is coming from and rid the room of four disruptive individuals.

Gold Lotus English Language Class - in the kitchen with fruit discussing food in AltspaceVR.

I won’t lie. The relief it brought me for not having to police them felt good. It was a quick fix. They were gone and unable to return to the event. Where else could I so easily take the reins of the law in my hands and wield such justice? The lesson goes on.

After the class, one of the disruptors did something which can only be admired – he resurrected his Twitter account to message me asking why I would do that to him. At this point, given his genuine dismay at what had happened I unblocked him from the upcoming event and he had been a valuable addition to the conversation before the trouble. I go for the second chance opportunity. His temporary banning was a mistake on my part – I cast blame by association. I wasn’t sure who was passing wind so I booted everyone in the proximity it was occurring.

This happens in VR and in real life – you let the intensity of a situation get the better of you and make rash decisions which can potentially lead to people branded as guilty when they most definitely are not. What if this were a student on a year-long course and his parents were paying for him to be there in order to pass an exam. I wouldn’t have had the luxury of being so trigger-happy, or at least would have had to justify my actions afterwards.

Onto my second mistake I regret from these past 100 lessons. A few months later, this same individual – a quite jovial and often talkative chap – began to assert his presence a bit too strongly on the group dynamic. Too many jokes, too much laughter. Other more passive attendees informed me that they felt he was slightly distracting nature to the class. One lesson I let my frustrations get the better of me and in front of the group of a few dozen people, shut him down quite abruptly and flat-out asked him why he felt the need to continually bring the attention to him. He left the lesson within the following minutes, then started messaging me apologising for causing offence and that he would probably take a break from our events.

Cue the compassionate teacher. I responded, asking him to meet me in the Campfire, a popular gathering space in AltspaceVR. We shared our feelings about the situation under a rather old, sprawling virtual tree. I took the time to understand more about the person he was – a student, interestingly quite well-read on aspects relating to language acquisition in children – and had the opportunity to apologise for not approaching him privately about his behavior.

Since then, his participation in the classes has been very different, adding genuinely productive interjections in the class, and supporting others to learn English better. It added a wonderful flavour to the learning and social experience.

Micheal McDonald teaches English to global students in VR.

I learned to bear in mind that people aren’t necessarily fully aware of how they are coming across to others, and a gentle comment in private can serve as the perfect remedy to bring everyone onto the same page. I learned valuable lessons about how to interact with people in virtual worlds, and how not being trigger happy with the moderation tools can save a lot of bad blood.

Since then, I’ve been more conscious of how I deal with people who aren’t the right fit for my English lessons. Is it right to banish someone rudely from your Shakespeare book club because they want to talk about Dostoyevsky? Maybe, but there are a series of steps I believe we must follow before clicking the kick button.

Given that we rely so much on voice in these virtual spaces since facial expressions and body language (apart from flailing your arms around) is pretty much non-existent, I’ve learned to embrace the power of enunciation – speaking clearly, tone of voice, emotional influences.

I’ve learned to keep people on their toes by projecting my voice and most importantly tap into the atmosphere of the space and modify that quickly. This is something that takes practice, and thankfully there are events throughout the day on Altspace and many other VR meeting platforms to help you refine your speaking skills.

Even in the face of inappropriate behaviour, we must set an example of politeness if we are to use this new medium as a vehicle for positive change. That starts with giving people the benefit of the doubt, and reminding them that there are people around them who mean no harm, winning the hearts and minds of our students.

The Logistics of Running Classes in AltspaceVR

As the Educators in VR co-founder Lorelle VanFossen once joked, running virtual events is like flying a jumbo jet. You’ve a number of things to keep your eye on and turbulence may hit at any time.

When I teach English in AltspaceVR, I’m usually in my Oculus Quest VR headset, as well as logged in on my laptop as another avatar. Not only does this avatar serve as the eyes through which the event is captured on film for later promotion but it gives me another quick perspective about what attendees other than me the teacher is seeing. For example, there have been times when I have seen the presentation slides on my Quest and not in the 2D view on my laptop, helping to isolate and respond to technical issues before the attendees notice.

Gold Lotus English lesson in a jungle tree house in AltspaceVR.

March 2020 saw me deliver a full consecutive 24 hours of English lessons in virtual reality to raise money for the Italian Red Cross in Italy to support them in their fight against Coronavirus. My usual classes last thirty minutes. When you are not only teaching English from inside the headset, but moving slides, engaging attendees, and capturing film footage via your avatar on the laptop (which requires juggling the VR controllers to lift up the headset from the sweat-covered brow), and keeping your eyes peeled for trouble-makers – it can be quite intense, yet exhilarating.

It is then you realise the importance of the expertise of the team like Educators in VR for support. Since joining them at the start of 2019 to launch the vLanguage Team Project, it has been wonderful to see them evolve into a full-stack virtual events production company.

Imagine the complexity of a VR event when attendees and speakers cover multiple time zones, training speakers to feel comfortable navigating the virtual space, integrating and managing slides or other audio-visual effects into the event, and booking, managing, and supporting the event with moderators. You quickly see their value.

Would it have crossed your mind to design the space devoid of nooks and crannies for virtual tyrants to stealthily park themselves and wreak havoc on your all-important event with a blitzkrieg of flatulence? Probably not and this is where VR event organisers like Educators in VR really come into their own. I am honored to have learned under their tutelage how to improve my hosting and moderation abilities and so grateful for their continued support.

Michael McDonald - Gold Lotus vlanguage learning

Other advice I’d give is to mould the tools, features, and worlds on offer to the particular learning objectives you have in mind as the teacher. Altspace has a smorgasbord of worlds on offer – anything from cities, to cafes to ancient historical sites. Use the world search feature on the web version of AltspaceVR. Favorite ones that look interesting. Visit them and consider how you could adapt those environments to add more context to the topics you’re covering in your classes.

Don’t be shy to use more traditional locations. A space like an office or classroom might cause VR evangelists to grimace and ridicule you for not making the most out of the metaverse’s time-space bending capabilities, but I’ve seen best results among my students when I strike the right balance between epic field trips around the world to expose them to highly contextual language in realistic settings then balancing that with a more sober debrief of the grammar structures and vocabulary learned in an environment that is somewhat less distracting.

VR a Catalyst for Unprecedented Global Change

It could be argued that the longer a police officer serves, the more acutely aware he or she becomes of the danger that exists in the world around them. Countless exposures to situations of peril and conflict honed their ability to foresee certain events and either diffuse them before the point of eruption or be on the front foot should all hell break loose.

Teachers are the same. If you’ve ever spent any time at the coal face of education – standing on your own at the front of a class staring down the barrel of thirty sets of eyeballs, you can’t help but liken it to a lion encountering a group of cackling hyenas in the unforgiving Serengeti. Show too much weakness and they will be feasting on your sorry carcass within hours, show too much strength and the toxic atmosphere will breed tension, revolts and poor performance for all concerned.

Only through experience can a teacher truly tune into the energy of a class. When you do tap into it, the autumn months bring new students, and new dynamics for you to adapt to. You’d be hard-pushed to find an entirely angelic class anywhere. It is the teacher’s job to try to keep the lid on negative energy bubbling over onto the other students and spoiling the integrity of the lesson, while maintaining a level of sensitivity to the reasons why people act the way they do and that their behaviour may well be a direct consequence of a deeply troubled home life or other.

Michael McDonald - English lessons in a cafe in AltspaceVR.

This melting pot of factors is reflected in VR. In my experience, approaching questionable behaviour with politeness and even a sprinkling of humour can continue to reinforce the idea that mutual respect and a bit of give and take can bring harmony. Language like “If you don’t mind I’m just muting you so we can give other people a chance to talk, but we’ll come back to you in a few minutes” or “If it’s ok with you, could you stop doing that because there are people here to learn and you’re stopping them” can be a way to separate the harmless jesters from the outright troublemakers.

What happens when this fails to register in the mind of the individual whose sole aim is to disrupt the event and disturb others? This is where clear guidelines both in the event and lesson description and a quick review of them at the start of the gathering pays dividends, just like reviewing the syllabus on the first day of class.

Establishing the ground rules early as an educator (or event host) and physically (well, virtually through your avatar) dominating the space around you by not standing in one spot I find helps, too.

It is the role of a teacher, in my opinion, to promote empathy above all else. Teaching in virtual reality in places like AltspaceVR, where people can freely jump from one publicly-listed event to another, has huge potential for educators, businesses and content creators. There is a constant flow of passing people from all corners of the world entering your virtual space and being part of your lesson, product launch or meetup offering many opportunities to connect with new people.

As a teacher of English as a foreign language both in and out of virtual reality, I have a core belief: inspire people and they can learn anything.

People’s minds need to be fertile for learning. It is the role of the teacher to do the hard work initially in clearing the fields of weeds, rolling up his or her sleeves and turning the land over so that the seeds of inspiration can be sown. Combine that with a regular sprinkling of serious pedagogy, openness and goals to reach may increase the chances of spring bringing flourishing minds, bearing the fruit of the labour in the autumn and winter months.

This is where VR and spatial learning more generally really excels – the very fact that you can take your students on a tour of New York and Paris in one lesson, show them a 3D model of a bagel and a baguette, break them into groups to talk about their travel experiences, then finish the class gathering in a virtual departure lounge in an airport reviewing the key vocabulary, can be a huge stimulus for not just contextual learning, but supports collaborative learning and social interactions.

The deep connection and continued transferring of what works and does not work in VR into the real world and vice versa is critical. The two are, at this stage at least, inextricably linked and we should strive to use each reality – that of the physical world and the virtual one – as leverage to improve how we study, work, live and exist in the other.

VR: The True Global Village

To limit the accessibility of virtual worlds – whether it be AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, Facebook Horizon, or other – would be to play God in a way that probably no humans have done at any point in the history of our species. VR opens up possibilities in education we’ve never encountered before, and the potential is infinite.

No longer can we hold our hands up and ignore the far-flung, sun-scarred, and infrastructure-weak nations in the developing world, blaming logistical and physical factors for the reason why they are struggling to innovate and evolve societally as those more “powerful” nations. No longer can we fail to gather the collective energy and experiences of any strata of our global communities – village elders, the youth, the outsiders, the politicians, the academics, the entrepreneurs, the incarcerated, the economically struggling, the addicted and every other member to pool ideas and work towards a truly common goal for the benefit of all. We need a wholly unbiased, meaningful torch to firmly and collectively grasp onto to guide ourselves out from the quicksands of unfettered global corporatism, ongoing religious tensions, political uncertainty, toxic ideologies across the board and continued detachment from the wisdom and grounded relationship that all of our ancestors had with the soil under their feet and stars above their heads.

This torch must be the commitment to tirelessly giving back to the natural world, for the natural world is – as I see it – the only hearth around which people of all denominations can gather and warm their collective ideas, hopes and visions.

Paradoxically, the more time I spend immersed in virtual reality, the more vividly I perceive the physical world around me and develop a genuine, almost primordial urge to not just learn more about how I and others can coexist respectfully with the elements from which infinite generations descended. It makes me think more about what can be done to accelerate its rebirth. The rise of untethered headsets, where I can move freely around the physical space to do the same in the virtual realm has similarly sparked an untethering of my mind from what I believed to be important around me, something akin to only appreciating that which you lose.

Let the common, guiding light for us all in this new chapter of technology and human interaction be the health and sustainability of our planet.

Just as our ancient ancestors, long before the arrival of the pyramids and the Great Sphinx in Ancient Egypt communicated to us of their existence by marrying heaven and Earth through the alignment of the stars in the sky, to the strategic placement of fifty-ton stone megaliths in the soil they lived, must we too send the message to distant descendants that we used this wave of spatial computing to spark a renaissance of how we co-exist with the natural world around us. I implore all of you currently embracing or hoping to harness the power of this new wave of technology to ensure that the promotion of a healthier planet be a worthy beneficiary of the promotion of your event, conference or gathering.

This need not – should not – be an over-exuberant war cry which will only dissipate as the winds of time blow forth, but a calm and steady pursuit so as to respectfully and unpretentiously raise the collective consciousness to a point where it would be seen strange to run events and deliver ones services in virtual worlds without contributing, even in some small way, to the betterment of the natural world which exists on the other side of the head-mounted device.

Celebration of Gold Lotus English Language Classes.

What I propose is far beyond immersive content which explicitly shows the beauty and devastation of global warming and the submergence of our sea life in plastic, however powerful and needed that is. Just as enough raindrops on a meadow give rise to the incredible growth of a blanket of mushrooms, I envision a time where even the humblest of events acts as a single raindrop falling onto the soil. With enough drops, it can bring the rapid and uncontrollable fruition of a deeper global consciousness of the importance of the natural world around us.

In practical terms this might be a donation of a percentage of a virtual event’s revenue to a charity doing work for the benefit of the environment, made easy through an integration or type of plugin on all VR meeting platforms. It could be VIP access to an intimate Q&A with a famous person after a blockbuster VR event in return for demonstrating that you, in your local community, did something to give back to the environment such as riding a river of rubbish or collecting plastic waste from a stretch of beach. Other incentives could be free access to an educational expert for an hour in VR in return for an hour’s volunteering support at a local animal sanctuary.

Whatever it may be, let us use this advancing technology and the continually-growing list of events and experiences on offer as the fuel to more cohesion among us as a species, causing an osmosis – and not a continued detachment – from the virtual to the physical to the natural world at the grass-roots level, while we still have the chance.

Alvin Graylin of HTC at Virtual World Society Fireside

Alvin Wang GraylinThe Virtual World Society hosts Fireside chats regularly in AltspaceVR and Thurday, January 13, 2021, Tom Furness is bringing Alvin Gray, China President of HTC, makers of the HTC Vive and other VR technology, for a discussion on how reality maybe be vitural but the future of XR is real and here now.

The two will discuss the state of XR technology and look far into the future on what is coming that will change our lives, education, and the workplace.

Mr. Graylin is the China President at HTC, leading all aspects of HTC’s business in the region (Vive/VR, phone, content platform, partnerships and investments) and the company’s SW business globally. He is also currently Vice-Chairman of the Industry of Virtual Reality Alliance, President of the $18B Virtual Reality Venture Capital Alliance and oversees the Vive X VR Accelerators in Beijing, Shenzhen and Tel Aviv.

Mr. Graylin has over 28 years of management experience in the tech industry, including 20 years in Greater China. Prior to HTC, he was a serial entrepreneur, having founded four venture-backed startups and has held $100+ million P&L roles at a number of public companies.

Mr. Graylin received his MS in computer science from MIT, MBA from MIT’s Sloan School and BS in EE from the University of Washington, where he had specialized in VR and AI. Mr. Graylin is fluent in English, Mandarin, and Cantonese.

Educators in VR was honored to have Mr. Graylin join us at several events during the 2020 International Summit, and we’re thrilled to be assisting with the production of this event in AltspaceVR with his return.

Expect this event to fill up fast. For more information, RSVP the event in AltspaceVR and check out our guide on how to attend events in VR. Consider subscribing to the Virtual World Society AltspaceVR channel to keep up with event announcements.

Google Poly: Low Poly Alternatives

We learned recently that Google Poly would be closing as of June 30, 2021. Uploads will be turned off April 30. As a 3D creation and viewer tool, students and educators are easily able to create low-poly objects with in-VR tools and share them with others, expanding the range of 3D objects available for education.

Many artists, creators, educators, researchers, developers, and historians have uploaded “irreplaceable” cultural artifacts to the service and consider it to be a “cultural museum” of 3D and VR history. They are demanding the archive be preserved and continue to be curated in some way. A petition on Change.org is inviting signatures to encourage Google to open source the Poly platform. We encourage you to join.

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Gold Lotus English Courses in January

Educators in VR is partnered with Gold Lotus language learning founded by Michael McDonald offering English language learning experiences in virtual reality.

For over four years, Michael McDonald has delivered more than 100 free VR English lessons in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other VR platforms, not counting his successful record-breaking 24-hr English Lesson fundraiser project in VR. He is also the co-leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage Learning Team Project, hosting events with experts and topics on learning language in XR regularly. His free language classes are an opportunity to learn English and expand conversational skills. He also teaches specialized workshops and private lessons focused on specific need and skill levels.

As a leading expert in VR language education, Michael is the Co-Leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage team project, bringing together experts and educators from around the world to expand their knowledge and skills in virtual reality language learning and techniques.

Gold Lotus workshop selfie.

Educators in VR has produced and hosted more than 1000 workshops, classes, and meetups since its founding in 2018, and in 2021, we are launching our Educators in VR Institute in January offering free and paid workshops and classes in VR. We’re proud to launch one of the first series of workshops with Gold Lotus.

vLanguage English 8-hr Course

Over the next month, Michael McDonald is hosting a series of free introductory classes on English-language learning through interactivity and discussion in AltspaceVR with a 4-week paid course designed to build your English speaking skills beginning January 12, 2021, in AltspaceVR.

The 8-hour course is designed to boost your language skills at the start of the year and includes classes twice a week for 4-weeks for exploration of the language for travel, house and home, holidays, weather, dining, and more. The courses will begin on AltspaceVR and expand to other VR platforms soon.

Small intimate classes like this often start at 100 Euros (USD $125). Though the partnership with Educators in VR, we are offering this 8-hour course for 40 Euros (USD $49).

Begin the process by subscribing to our Educators in VR Institute mailing list and we will update you on class times and availability for this and the other workshops, classes, courses, and trainings we are doing for free and low-cost fees.

Showcasing Language Learning Techniques in VR

If you are an educator involved in language learning arts, check out the vLanguage Learning channel in our Educators in VR Discord for tips and information as well as announcements on the next meetups to discuss the topic.

Last week, Michael and his vLanguage Learning Team Project co-leader, Ekaterina Semeniuk (Gingery), held a fascinating demonstration on language learning in ENGAGE using sticky notes and 3D objects to help students more actively working with new vocabulary. This was followed by a trip to a coffee shop where attendees were able to get a taste of how realistic and highly contextual learning environments can support foreign language learners in understanding how to build vocabulary for meaningful interactions in the physical world around them – such as ordering a drink.

Participants also witnessed the spatial recording feature of ENGAGE platform through a willing guinea pig by the name of Sergei, who demonstrated how by recording your avatar within a lesson can bring to the surface useful reflections on what mistakes students make and how they can be corrected, to build deeper meta-cognitive awareness about how one communicates in a foreign language. The group learned even more about how to improve the way people learn a foreign language in VR as it focuses the mind on key vocabulary and grammar necessary for upcoming – more engaging and interactive – tasks within the virtual environment. The event wrapped up standing at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Italy to witness the eruption of the famous volcano, again a treasure trove of words, expressions, grammar and conversation for the language learner.

This is just a highlight of the potential for learning and teaching in VR, and we are excited to announce our Educators in VR Institute soft launch for January to help you share the VR experience with your students and experience it yourself.

Gold Lotus English Language workshops and classes learning inside a home garage.

In addition to the Gold Lotus English-language courses, we are developing workshops about VR event hosting, teaching, and virtual world building as well as workshops in VR on a wide variety of subjects including personal and professional development, creative writing, blogging, social media, conflict management, and much more. Stay tuned for more announcements and updates.

This is the first of many such collaborations. For more information, subscribe and join our Educators in VR Discord, Twitter, and Facebook to keep up with all the latest news, events, and resources.

More Holiday Storytelling in AltspaceVR

We are filling AltspaceVR with story this holiday season, bringing together friends and family and making new friends at a time when so many continue to be in lockdown and isolation. In social VR, you are rarely alone.

We have some wonderful stories to share with you this year including classics such as ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, also known as A Visit from St. Nicholas by Clement C. Moore; The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg of a boy’s adventure or dream to travel by train to the North Pole to meet Santa; How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss; excerpts from A Christmas Carol by Dickens ready by Dr. Nancy Bixler PhD over two nights highlighting the descriptions of Dickens’s Victorian holiday time; Christmas at Red Butte by Lucy Maud Montgomery about an orphaned girl who sacrifices her family memento so her cousins will have Christmas; Holiday Storytelling with original stories by the Creative Writing Meetup members; and more.

A special event on December 22 features Ekaterina Semeniuk, aka Gingery, is a reading in Russia of the famous story of Ded Moroz & Summer, Дед Мороз и лето. She is a TESOL teacher in Moscow specializing in foreign philology, the history and development of languages, and co-team leader of the Educators in VR vLanguage Learning team project.

Educators in VR is also bringing together members from around the world to share traditional holiday stories in our special, International Storytelling Event on December 22.

Creative Writing Holiday Storytelling event in AltspaceVR.There are events throughout AltspaceVR for the holidays, and other social VR Platforms as well. We’ve included a few highlights of events from the Virtual World Society and #GETSOCIAL’s Winter Wonderland festival through January featuring a variety of special guests and social events, including ice skating.

Our Production and Event Manager (among other titles), Donna McTaggart, is hosting daily Advent day readings and biblical devotionals for the holidays with her popular Live Loved Christian Devotional events, reminding us of the reason for the season.

Here is an updated list of storytelling events in AltspaceVR. Note, some events featured multiple times in a day.

Come join us in AltspaceVR. If you are new to AltspaceVR, you may join on a VR headset or in 2D on a Windows 10 or Mac desktop or laptop computer. Check out our “How to Attend Educators in VR Events” guide for details.

Photogrammetry Examples and Resources

Mark Jeffcock presented a workshop in AltspaceVR on photogrammetry recently, inspiring others to step into photogrammetry.

Among the many tips and tricks Mark offered during the workshop, he emphasized taking as many photographs as possible from multiple positions and heights. It’s not about photographing around the diameter. The 3D images need to capture over, under, and inside. The software then stitches the images together to created the final 3D image.

He’s encouraging people to create their own photogrammetry project and share it on our Educators in VR Discord group in the Weekly Discussion channel. You may share a link to the Sketchfab asset or, if you import it into AltspaceVR or another social VR platform, a link to your publicly accessible virtual world. We’d love some show and tell of your great creative works.

The video of his presentation in AltspaceVR for Educators in VR is on our Educators in VR YouTube channel.

Examples of Photogrammetry in AltspaceVR

Below are examples of his worlds with photogrammetry. Please click on the link and favorite the world to add to your Favorites list in AltspaceVR. If you are new to AltspaceVR, when you arrive, go to the blue circle menu with an A in it then Settings > General > Enable Worlds Beta to activate the Worlds menu item. There you will find Favorites.

Photogrammetry Sources and Resources

If you are an educators or student and wish to use some of the models he mentioned already on Sketchfab, he recommended the generosity of the Global Digital Heritage for creating and sharing Sketchfab.

Examples of 3D models from Global Digital Heritage.

Mark mentioned that most of the photogrammetry software is designed for the real estate industry, agents and homeowners with little or no technical ability, which makes it ideal for student and class work.

Other services mentioned to help you create your own 3D models with photogrammetry included:

  • 3Dflow/3DF Zephyr: 3D Flow is a commercial company offering solutions and software for photogrammetry, 3D modeling, processing, and visual effects. Their product, 3DF Zephyr is available for free and paid versions to process images for photogrammetery. The free version is limited to 50 images per project, enough to learn about how the process works and create small objects good for use in AltspaceVR and other low poly social VR platforms with world building.
  • MicMac: A free, open-source photogrammetry suite used to create 3D reconstruction scenes, models, and othro-imagery.
  • COLMAP: A general-purpose Structure-From-Motion (SfM) and Multi-View Stereo (MVS) pipeline with a graphical and command-line interface to reconstruct ordered and unordered image collections for 3D renderings. Instructables has a simple guide for installing and using COLMAP.
  • RealityCapture.com: Credit and monthly fee photogrammetry software for scanning, creating, and sharing 3D scenes and assets including full-body scans, 2D and 3D maps, and 3D printing.
  • Agisoft Metashape: A commercial program to process digital images and generate 3D spatial data with a high degree of accuracy. Designed more for commercial and scientific uses, it’s ideal for advanced photogrammetry work.
  • ReCap Pro by Autodesk: Another powerful commercial photogrammetry tool, it is used to scan and create 3D models from imported photographs and laser scans and works with the cloud for collaborative team projects.

Wikipedia offers a comparison list of photogrammetry software that might help you explore the potential out there.

Here are some articles with more information and suggestions for photogrammetry software and tools for educators and students include:

Mark Jeffcock teaches with Try Universe as part of the Computer Science in VR workshops and classes in AltspaceVR and elsewhere. Check their course schedule for upcoming courses, and the other excellent Unity and VR-based workshops and classes. We are working on bringing him back for more, so let us know if there are specific topics you would be interested in.

Holiday Storytelling in AltspaceVR

We’re pleased to announce that Educators in VR is a part of the support team for the Holiday Storytelling community event series in AltspaceVR this year. We need your help to fill up social VR with holiday stories, traditional and original.

This event comes at a very unique time in our history and societies. Holidays are a time for the gathering of families around food and tradition, a time when the stories of old and new are shared. Hanukah has started, which should be bringing families together around the world for the Jewish holiday. The United States is a quarantine away from Thanksgiving (2 weeks). We’re fast coming up to Advent in December, then Winter Solstice, and just over a month away from the Christmas holidays.

With so many this year isolating and far from family, we will break that isolation in social VR. Now is the time to gather together in a more intimate way than an online conference. It’s easy. A headset is appreciated but not necessary to access. AltspaceVR is now accessible with Windows 10 in the Microsoft Windows and Steam stores. It is available for the Mac in 2D. Bring your family and friends together in VR.

This is also a great opportunity to work with students of all ages to encourage them to tell or share their own holiday stories in VR.

To participate, find a holiday story that is preferably in the public domain, or share your own unique holiday story. It may be done in any language. Please state the language in the title or first line of the event description to attract an audience in that language.

  1. Create a 30 minute event in AltspaceVR.
    • Have at least one moderator for the event in addition to the reader(s). Requests for moderators are to be made in the AltspaceVR Discord > Events > #moderators-needed channel with the hashtag #storytelling.
    • Choose a template from the AltspaceVR offerings or build a world for telling the story, ensuring the Diagnostics are all green.
    • Instructions for creating events are found in AltspaceVR in the InfoZone or ask for help from anyone with a green (Community Helper) or gold (staff) border around their name tag.
  2. Post a link to the event with the hashtag #storytelling in the AltspaceVR Discord > Events > #promotion channel.
  3. If you would like, also post a link to the event in the Educators in VR Discord > #workshops channel.

If you, your family, your class, and/or students would like to join us in spreading the joy of storytelling for the holidays, the specifications are in the Holiday Storytelling Guide (PDF).

The following are storytelling events already set through the season in AltspaceVR. Check the event and the AltspaceVR Events Calendar for the time in your time zone.

Come join all of us by creating your own holiday storytelling event. Or bring friends to the ones you will soon find filling the AltspaceVR event calendar. We’re eager to hear your stories from wherever you are in the world and in your life. Please help us celebrate the holidays together in VR.

Cyberbullying: VR Events Hosts Speak Out

Educators in VR presents VR Event Hosts Speak Out, taking place on AltspaceVR on October 23, 2020, featuring Jeremy D. Nickel, MysterySteve, Andy Fidel, Chris Samuelson, Don Ainsworth, and Donna McTaggart. Together, this panel represents pioneers in social VR with over 3,000 cumulative hours hosting VR events.

Educators in VR Cyberbullying Event Hosts 2018 in AltspaceVR.The event is part of the second annual Cyberbullying Month by Educators in VR, raising awareness and offering training and support sessions covering bullying in the real world and cyber, especially in virtual reality social spaces. For information on how to RSVP and attend an Educators in VR event in VR, we have a simple guide for you.

This panel discussion brings together several passionate event experts/leaders who will share their experiences to bring more awareness regarding bullying at their events. We will discuss trolling, disruptions, bullying from the audience, their techniques and guidelines of the event experts to protect their events from attacks in a virtual space.

Over the years, many event organizers and communities in the social VR space often suffer from various harassment caused by children, trolls or drunks who thought it was funny to disturb others. Unlike web trolls that deliberately offend others and upset them with written words, individuals intend on disruption consider the challenge to use a virtual world on a room scale to disrupt in a variety of ways. Examples include targeting individuals, the host(s), or the entire audience by getting uncomfortably close, violating the person’s or the audience personal space and experience (Nafarrete, 2016) or disturb special event or meetings of online communities.

Educators in VR attendees.While better connecting the world and democratizing information, the internet has allowed individuals to hide behind masks of anonymity. Apart from the fact that more and more attention is being paid to different cyberbullying campaigns, statistics focused on online bullying show that this problem won’t be over very soon. For example, Google Trends data for 2020 shows that there’s much more attention focused on cyberbullying. The volume of worldwide searches for the word ‘Cyberbullying’ increased threefold since 2004. Besides cyberbullying at several social media platforms, bullying and embarrassment can also be a big problem in virtual spaces, like so on virtual events.

While you may think these disruptions, trolling, harassed and bullying from the audience are sadly enough very common in the world of organizing VR events, many social VR platforms like AltspaceVR have instituted event moderation tools and strong community standards and policies that remind users that there’s a real person behind every avatar. By introducing an empathic approach to changing behavior and changing attitudes, these platforms strive to change each other’s hearts and minds.

Educators in VR and their event panel of experts and leaders are excited to share different experiences to encourage others, give self-confidence and show that organizing is still exciting and fun.

Jeremy D. Nickel of EvolVR
Rev. Jeremy D. Nickel is an ordained Unitarian Universalist Minister, he currently serves as the acting Lead Minister of the UU Congregation of Boulder, CO, as well as being the Founder of EvolVR, the world’s first VR Sangha and Spiritual community. As part of his role at EvolVR he leads weekly Overview Effect themed meditations in Virtual Reality in which groups of people from around the world slowly float from the surface of planet Earth to a near earth orbit. When not in Virtual Reality he can be found in Boulder, CO with his wife, Rev. Nicole Lamarche, and daughter Eliza, where they enjoy spending as much time exploring the great outdoors as humanly possible.

MysterySteve, event host/co-owner, We Are ImproVR
Mystery Steve (Stevieboy) is a co-owner of We Are ImproVR, a company that produces improv comedy events in AltspaceVR. He cohosts 3 shows, including “Improv Night w/ Stevieboy and Shoseki,” “A Thing In A Place,” and “Loco And Stevie’s Talking Hour.” For over 3 years he’s been doing comedy in AltspaceVR with the amazing help of his fellow cohosts, wonderful family of moderators and everyone who decides to get involved. His goal is to help as many people as possible to see how interesting they truly are by giving them a platform to show off their life and skills during his events. When he isn’t hosting any shows, he often draws cartoons that more often than not are based off of the wacky ideas thought up by his friends from the aforementioned events.

Andy Fidel of #GetSocial
Spatial Network Evangelist Andy Fidel creates social experiences for remote communities. Founder of #GetSocial, a digital network for emerging technology enthusiasts and creators. This team has produced over 700 events across the multiverse with the aim to engage people in future conversations. They host fireside chats, summits, conference extensions, and experiential hangouts for community and enterprise. Making local conversations, global discussions. Andy studies the impact of VR/AR on digital communications and what the future holds for human connection. She and her team explore the social side of immersive reality hosting weekly chats on virtual identities, collaborative tools, multiverse communities, connected learning, and accessibility. She has collaborated with AltspaceVR by Microsoft, WXR Fund, Verizon 5G Labs, VRScout, YouTube VR Creator Lab, Educators in VR, and communities at large across the multiverse.

Chris Samuelson, event host, LGBTQ+ and Friends
Chris is the host of the VR LGBTQ and Friends Meetups. He ran this event for the last 3 and a half years giving the community a place to meet, hang out in a safe and fun environment. With multiple events throughout every week, he catered to the community from all around the world. Many of the groups’ members are highly active in the VR-community, supporting a wide range of events as volunteers and moderators, and they also organize meetings in the real world.

Don Ainsworth, event host/co-owner, A Think in a Place and Let’s Talk
Don Ainsworth is the co-developer of “A Thing in a Place” comedy podcast with Stevieboy, and creator of “Let’s Talk,” a unique virtual reality show about life, death, and everything in between. Don is famous for just pushing limits, in the real world and virtual, it doesn’t matter.

Donna McTaggart, Educators in VR, Live Loved
Donna McTaggart is the Event Coordinator, Conference and Production Manager, and Project Manager of Educators in VR. Her expertise in VR event production is unparalleled. She is also founder of the company, KAOS, and has twenty years’ experience working with small, international businesses to provide accounting and operational software solutions and implementation services including training, consulting, and mentoring of Microsoft Office products and other office software. She is the co-founder of the Social Media Breakfast in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, and continues to lead this group over the past 10 years. She is also a longtime volunteer, coordinator, and get-things done leader with Calgary events and activities as well as a leader and member of the VRARA Alberta group, Educators in VR, Virtual World Society, and many other non-profit and social good organizations.

If you want to know more about this topic or how to handle cyberbullying while hosting an VR event, we invite you to join our panel discussion. We will be inviting questions to the panelists to ask them about their methods, techniques, feelings, guidelines, working with moderators, and on how to protect their events from attacks.

If you want to know more about this topic or how to handle cyberbullying while hosting an VR event, we invite you to join our panel discussion. We will be inviting questions to the panelists to ask them about their methods, techniques, feelings, guidelines, working with moderators, and on how to protect their events from attacks.

Educators in VR still maintains last year’s list of Cyberbullying Resources and Research, and hosts regular Cyberbullying Team Project Meetups in AltspaceVR that are open to the public for workshops and open discussions on cyberbullying, harm reduction, prevention, taking action, and how to protect yourself. Also see the research article, “The Extended Mind – Virtual Harassment, The social experience of 600+ regular Virtual Reality users” (2018, 04 03).

Educators in VR is dedicated to providing educational events, trainings, and workshops for educators and learners to prepare them for the future of spatial technologies in education. We offer weekly workshops, socials, and special events in AltspaceVR, ENGAGE, and other platforms featuring key educators, trainers, and developers in VR, AR, XR, and MR technology and education.

You may attend our events in VR or with a Windows 10 or Mac computer. For more information, see our guide on how to attend Educators in VR events.

Join our Educators in VR Discord group, Facebook, and follow us on Twitter for information on workshops and how to become more involved. Consider subscribing to our Educators in VR event subscription channel to receive regular reminders of upcoming events there. We publish member brags and news you can use about virtual reality in education across the entire spectrum of usage from childhood education to health and science to corporate.