Meet “The Ultimate Team”
Meet the four brave warrior teachers who decided during a global pandemic to launch our courses in virtual reality (VR). We are the first of our kind, and we are the first of our name. We are “The Ultimate Team.” We began our journey in the fall of 2020, determined to go on a trek together. Armed with vision and talent, we decided to unify our skills in a world newly created to resemble the one we were no longer able to access--Morehouse College. Can you imagine the tenacity it took to transform from a college professor to a superhero in real life? If you cannot, let us tell you our story. Hopefully, it will inspire and encourage continued innovation and student engagement in ways that you never thought were possible.
Figure 1. The Ultimate Team Logo and Founding Members. The Ultimate Team Logo represents the power of working as an interdisciplinary team where every discipline comes together to teach a central theme. The middle, where the star resides, is where the VR and teaching magic happen. The branches from the star is to reach others in many disciplines and beyond Morehouse’s borders. Founding members of The Ultimate Team from the top left then clockwise are Dr. Tanya Clark (English), Dr. Muhsinah Morris (Chemistry), Dr. Ethell Vereen (Biology), and Dr. Ovell Hamilton (History).
From Real to Virtual in 60 Days
DuShunte Carmon, former project manager of the Virtual Reality Project assembled this team and monikered us as “The Ultimate Team.” This Avenger-like team of four professors, Dr. Tanya Clark (English), Dr. Ovell Hamilton (History), Dr. Muhsinah Morris (Chemistry), and Dr. Ethell Vereen (Biology), made a transformative journey into the Metaverse in Spring 2021. How is that possible when clearly we were living through a global pandemic? A vision realized by former Provost Michael Hodge through the awarding of a Southern Company Grant and additional funding from Qualcomm allowed us to venture into this new educational space. VictoryXR, one of the world’s leading companies in virtual reality and augmented reality educational product development, led by CEO Steve Grubbs, created a digital twin campus of Morehouse College. The digital twin campus is an exact replica of what you see in real life displayed as a digital copy in 3D real time. It is a model that can be explored so that you can inhabit that same space like you would exist in real life. Google empowered us because VictoryXR was able to access images of the campus easily and have them created digitally in the virtual world. It was a reckoning about to commence and we were the main characters of this superhero story. This is how Morehouse in the Metaverse (MITM) emerged.
Saturdays are for VR: Pandemonium meets Preparation
The Ultimate Team, you say? Absolutely, and every team member truly has a superpower, and the day we usually all came together to power up was on Saturdays. There’s no teaching on Saturday, just mostly family time. At least, it was family time until the sun went down, and then there was VR. So after our kids were tucked away to a peaceful sleep, we entered the Metaverse on the Engage Platform in our Oculus Quest 2 headsets. We had meetings on Mars, created classrooms together for use, practiced manipulating objects, imported video content relevant to our lessons, and discussed implementation strategies. We especially laughed a lot at our own novice mistakes and lessons learned. We encouraged one another while in the midst of frustrations and sleepiness. We became a community within the greater community of Morehouse. Embarking on such a unique project where there was this element of surprise, we became the first professors in the world to make VR the college classroom. Implementing VR into courses across disciplines became our badge of honor. Determined to give this precious gift to our students, we persevered. In the Spring of 2021, the hard work paid off and our Morehouse students entered the Metaverse.
Figure 2. Ultimate Team Members Meeting on Mars. Exploring a different world was the Saturday norm as we got acclimated to the VR space.
Speaking of superpowers, here’s the list of ours:
Tanya Clark-Trifocal AfroVision: Immersing students in literary and narrative Black wonderlands to re-envision the parallels of our Afrofuturist past, present, and future.
Ethell Vereen-Empowering Experiential Scientific Discovery and Analytical Creative Engagement: Creating opportunities for students and others to engage intellectually, creatively, emotionally, socially, or physically. This power includes learning by doing, through experience, through exploration and discovery, having the aim to teach the student how to learn, to develop his/her skills, emphasizing creativity and originality, but also self-confidence and identity.
Ovell Hamilton-Metaverse Historian-Teleporting & Teaching through Historical Timelines from the beginning of the world to modern times, experientially.
Muhsinah Morris-Compassionate Chemist-Inspiring innovation and building visual spatial intelligence through molecular manipulation; Develops differentiation strategies for the neurodiverse learner steeped in tangential learning; Also known as the Gamification Guru
Our new cohort of professors also have superpowers soon to be revealed in the next episode of Morehouse in the Metaverse (MITM). No worries, you have your own and we welcome every one of them.
Figure 3. Settings in VR across Sciences and Humanities. A. Dr. Clark teaching literary content about Henrietta Lacks in chemistry and B. biology classrooms. C. Morehouse students creating molecules in space with a face-enabled avatar professor of Dr. Morris right in front facilitating. E. Dr. Hamilton on a teleplane showing History students what staging a war looks like. F. Dr. Hamilton demonstrating how the war took place by positioning the troops on the map and having students on the teleplane look downward and watch the war effort proceed. G. Dr. Vereen leading class in a Barbershop created with culturally responsive content to engage Black males in more fluid conversations about male health. H. Dr. Vereen welcomes students into his virtual reality lab for the semester.
Click above for the Morehouse in the Metaverse Trailer 2021 video to see more about how Morehouse professors are transforming higher education.
Superheroes Ignite and Empower
The Ultimate Team was able to establish a foundation in the metaverse, and now an inaugural group of superhero scholars consisting of two (2) faculty members for the Fall 2021 academic term now don their own VR headsets ready to share their own superpowers! Coming aboard is the newly tenured Associate Professor, Dr. Adria Welcher in Sociology and Senior Assistant Professor Mikki Harris in Journalism.
It is our hope to bring more faculty colleagues into the Metaverse for Spring 2022. If you are interested, please reach out directly to Dr. Muhsinah Morris, Project Manager of the MITM VR Project at email@example.com. Feel free to contact any professor about their experiences. You can also fill out this interest form at https://forms.gle/KtYubPr9xqnJCKox7. There will be an interest meeting mid-October for everyone interested in joining The Ultimate Team. Seize the moment and embody your superpower!
Learn more: http://www.victoryxr.com/morehouse
Muhsinah Morris, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of chemistry and the Director of the Virtual Reality Project at Morehouse College
Tanya Clark, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of English
Ovell Hamilton, Ph.D., is a visiting assistant professor of history
Ethell Vereen, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of biology.