Enterprise Education

Transforming the learning experience with XR


  • Jacob Fortman, Emerging Technology Research Analyst – GVSU
  • Courtney Topic, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies Department – GVSU
  • Hunter Bridwell, Emerging Technology Coordinator – GVSU
  • Martin Sebban, US Sales & Partnership Manager – Uptale
  • Dwayne Iserief, COO & Co-Founder – Uptale

In today’s dynamic educational landscape, institutions and universities are constantly looking for innovative approaches to foster student engagement and improve knowledge retention.

Discover how Grand Valley State University (GVSU), in partnership with Uptale, empowers teaching and immerses students in realistic situations through realistic 360° experiences.

A creative & collaborative process

The creation of the virtual reality (VR) courtroom experience was a collaborative effort involving subject-matter experts and the Student Technology and Innovation Guild Team (STING), a group of student assistants from various disciplines created by the GVSU IT Innovation + Research team. STING develops and advises emerging technology applications, such as Uptale, to meet the university’s pedagogical challenges.

This process followed several key stages:

Call for proposals

With the support of the IT Innovation + Research team, faculty can submit their VR project ideas and learning objectives for a solution that meets their needs.


Working closely with faculty, instructional designers develop the content scenario to ensure a coherent and engaging learning experience.

Experience creation

Trained on Uptale, STING students create the VR experience within the platform, based on the storyboard previously defined.

Research & Assessment

The IT-Innovation + Research teams provide invaluable support to research by analyzing student feedback on VR experiences.

This will help guide future GVSU projects.

« Immersive 360° experiences have been attracting a lot of interest lately, especially for teachers trying to create VR field trips. Or to immerse learners in simulations that might be too costly or dangerous to experience in the real world. And that’s where the conversations around Uptale were born. »

— Jacob Fortman, Emerging Technology Research Analyst at Grand Valley State University

Bringing Law to life

Virtual reality offers students a unique opportunity for immersive learning, far beyond the textbook. Through a VR tour of a courtroom, students can project themselves into an environment where they might one day practice.

This experience enables them to actively engage in their training, while offering a level of accessibility rarely available to the public. Indeed, in the United States, although courtrooms are open to the public, access is often limited to the gallery or back seats. What’s more, students can now explore these rooms directly from their phones or computers, unconstrained by traditional schedules. This flexibility allows them to experience the virtual tour at their own pace, in their own time.

For Courtney Topic, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies, this dynamic method represents an innovative way of presenting course content.

Innovative exploratory research

This exploratory research focuses on the experience of legal studies students within an immersive virtual reality courtroom.

Through the use of qualitative and quantitative methods, the students’ engagement with the curriculum can be measured, depending on the increased sense of immersion and presence.

It also assesses the degree of authenticity perceived by students in their experience, identifies areas for improvement, and explores the elements they wish to develop further in these courses.

At the heart of this approach, the objective is to gauge the value of these experiences in terms of practicality and their contribution to improved knowledge retention among students.

« You can go to the jury area, go to the judge’s bench, and see the rules the judge uses… You can see all sorts of things that wouldn’t be easily observable by a member of the general public. So the level of accessibility allowed is really wonderful from my point of view. »

— Courtney Topic, Assistant Professor of Legal Studies at Grand Valley State University

The benefits of Virtual Reality in Education

Greater commitment

Students are fully immersed in the learning experience, which boosts active engagement and concentration.

Better knowledge retention

The interactive nature of VR simulations ensures a deeper understanding and better retention of legal concepts.

Accessibility and flexibility

Students can access VR experiences anytime, anywhere, on any devices, including smartphones, computers and tablets.

Exploration of limited environments

VR allows students to navigate traditionally inaccessible areas such as the jury and the judge's bench.

Q&A Session

To what extent have you used the voice recognition function? And how would you rate it?

Jacob: We have not yet used the voice recognition function for this project. But we are discussing the second or third version of it.
For example, we’re looking at what it would look like if someone stepped up to the podium and made a kind of legal statement. I think that would fit in very well with voice recognition. You can be very strategic about the keywords you’re trying to get students to say, and if it makes sense for them to say them in that particular context, that’s great.

Martin: And to tell you a little more about voice recognition, Uptale can detect keywords.
In fact, you can introduce keywords into the context and, depending on the keywords pronounced by the students, we can activate interactive elements: video, feedback or teleport to a new scene.
Finally, you have access to voice data, enabling you to listen to the student again.

Did you blur the 360 image in Uptale, or did you use another software program to achieve this?

Hunter & Jacob: We blurred the 360 image using Photoshop. Even before we started using Uptale, we knew this would be an issue. So we blurred the image before we uploaded everything.
Dwayne: To give you some extra information, there are currently features being developed in Uptale to include automatic face blurring or other options. I know it’s also possible to use blur with a patch, which can be applied directly to 360 photos.
So both options are available.

From a planning point of view, would you say that establishing the needs is the key step of your project?

Jacob: Yes, I would say so. Having quite a few Uptale projects and other VR projects, and also with Hunter leading the way in some other Unity projects, I think that establishing needs and pedagogical needs is one of the really fundamental points.
Are we going to use Uptale? Are we going to use Unity? Are we going to use another platform? Yes, because there are certain things that Uptale does very well, and there are certain things that the Unity game development engine also does very well. But it’s obvious that using a Unity engine is going to require a significantly longer timeline, a lot more investment of our resources and development staff.
Hunter: I would second that. Both to gauge what we’re going to use and how intense things are going to be. But also to see that when we are not goals focused like that or establishing those needs first… things tend to fall apart. Because then we’re implementing technology for technology’s sake. And that’s not really what we’re about.