Oklahoma State University’s School of Media and Strategic Communications has incorporated a virtual reality media literacy course into the curriculum for its new Esports Certificate Program.
The course was introduced for the first time this fall semester.
The Esports Certificate Program aims to provide OSU students with an introduction to the world of esports from a business and event planning perspective. Professor Skye Cooley is taking an innovative approach to offering students in the program the opportunity to engage with the evolving technology of VR.
“OSU is one of the few major media programs in the country that has an eSports component,” Cooley said. “I think that if we’re not the first, we’re certainly one of the first to offer what’s essentially a full virtual reality class.”
Esports Certificate Program students are required to take three specific subject courses in Esports. The VR media competence course is offered as a special subject class.
The course is entirely online and asynchronous in virtual reality. Students who take the course will receive a VR headset via the SMSC that they can use for the semester.
The course is designed to cover all levels of VR skills. Students learn everything from VR basics to more advanced components of VR. Course responsibilities include learning how to conveniently adjust the headset, create an avatar, create a home screen, invite friends to virtual rooms, watch movies and TV in VR, travel worlds in the metaverse, and create a world in Horizon Worlds.
The Metaverse is a network of 3D virtual worlds that can be accessed through a browser or headset. Meta Platforms Inc., formerly known as Facebook, created Meta Horizon Worlds as a VR platform that allows users to explore virtual worlds and interact with each other.
Students learn how to work in a team through interactive games and multiplayer experiences. Throughout the semester, students begin completing individual assignments before engaging in team work and playing games.
Depending on the skills of the students, there are two options for the final project.
“The class splits in two directions at the end where the students who are really solid gamers are challenged to get into the Unreal Engine and design a real game,” Cooley said. “And then we learn for the students who don’t know how to build their own world in Horizon Worlds.”
Through the Esports Certificate program, students learn how to combine computing and gaming skills with theories about media, advertising, and brand image to open new employment opportunities.
“The students who earn this certificate will be among the first to actually synergize this thinking about new job opportunities and career paths,” said Cooley. “That’s what students can do with this certificate, they’re going to have this idea of mixing.”
Alejandro Cavazos is a student in the Fall 2022 VR Media Literacy course. Cavazos explained that he had an interest and experience in VR before taking the course.
“I’ve followed the growth of VR technology since the Oculus Rift days of 2013, but my first real introduction to VR was with PlayStation VR,” said Cavazos. “I’ve spent a lot of time using this headset and I’ve thought long and hard about getting an Oculus Quest, but I just didn’t have the financial means to buy it. Luckily this course sort of solved that for me.”
Oculus Rift, Oculus Quest, and Playstation VR are all VR gaming headsets that allow the user to be fully immersed in a simulated VR environment.
The VR media literacy course is not only a fun way for students to experience VR technology and gaming, but it can also prepare students for a career in VR.
“With VR technology still in its infancy, I could definitely see this type of technology being incorporated into several different areas that have never used it before,” Cavazos said. “I’m studying strategic communications and I want to work in sales or marketing and I could absolutely see virtual reality becoming so commonplace in our everyday lives that sales in a virtual space could be possible. and for marketing I think it’s quite a thing as this new virtual space serves as a different form of medium to spread a message.”
Esports careers are rapidly expanding in scope and availability. Students pursuing a career in sports will benefit from being familiar with the latest technology.