VCUarts Qatar researchers get grant for VR-based project
August 14 2020 11:39 PM
A screenshot of the proposed research experiment.
A screenshot of the proposed research experiment.

The draft proposal was submitted in response to a Rapid Response Innovation Call by HBKU for investigating innovative methods to address expected changes beyond the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on the economy, society, trade and international relations
A proposal submitted by three researchers from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar) – a Qatar Foundation partner university – to develop an innovative pedagogical model that employs virtual reality technology as a medium of instruction, has been awarded a grant by QF’s Hamad Bin Khalifa University (HBKU).
The VR-based project – titled ‘Reimagining Education Beyond Covid-19 With Virtual Embodiment’ – addresses the main challenges in the global education system, and can be adapted to both hybrid and remote learning environments within Qatar. The draft proposal was submitted in response to a Rapid Response Innovation Call by HBKU for investigating innovative methods to address expected changes beyond the Covid-19 pandemic and its repercussions on the economy, society, trade and international relations.
All three researchers – Sherin Karawia, assistant instructor, VCUarts Qatar; Mona Kassem, instructional technologist and IT analyst, VCUarts Qatar; and Mariam Rafehi, adjunct faculty at both Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) and VCUarts Qatar – have previously worked on various projects that explore the applications of technology in education.
One of the main drivers of the project is to help education leadership and faculty overcome the challenges of using cutting-edge technology and software in classroom settings. “To allow for the project outcomes to be easily replicated, we will use VR-based collaboration tools that have already been adopted in the industry, and evaluate these within the context of education,” says Rafehi.
“What is unique about our approach is the use of virtual embodiment to promote resilience, innovative problem-solving, and optimism among learners on a local or global scale.”
This novel cross-disciplinary approach is intended to improve student engagement, constructivist learning, as well as build 21st century skills such as empathy, critical thinking, and innovation, to name but a few. In short, education is re-imagined to be more forward-looking, and resolve the challenges brought on by traditional teaching methodologies.
“The investigation itself will be carried out as a collaboration between VCUarts Qatar and NU-Q; the innovative pedagogical model will be tested on student cohorts at both universities over the fall semester,” explains Kassem.
“The results generated in the study will serve as a proof-of-concept. The outcome of this project will be a web-based resource that will explain how the VR model can be adopted by the wider education community within Qatar.”
VCUarts Qatar’s research proposal comes at a watershed moment in the history of education. Karawia notes how the recent transition to online classrooms – brought on by the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic – amplified the current educational challenges.
“The limitations of traditional education forced the conversation upon educators and policy-makers across the globe,” she says. “The sheer number of webinars and online-discussions on the topic – hosted by various stakeholders such as the Unesco, through CNN, to individual governments – since the start of the pandemic, vouch for this.
“HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani, vice chairperson and CEO of Qatar Foundation, addressed the issue in a talk titled ‘New Schools of Thought’ on QF’s Instagram channel last month, where she spoke about re-imagining our global education system and the opportunity for its change within the context of Covid-19.”



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