How to build a classroom in VR using Groups and Events
This how-to guide is part of a series of articles about building and holding class in Virtual Reality.
AltspaceVR does a great job of bringing people together in public spaces or small private gatherings. But I wanted to host a large but private (invitation only) class in a setting that allowed for break-out groups and a presentation screen.
I spent a lot of time in the Altspace World, attended some of the Educators in VR conference sessions, devoured the technical articles, and asked numerous questions on the forums. After two successful weeks of class in VR, I thought it would be helpful to give a quick how-to guide based on my experience.
Assumptions and Needs
Class needs to be by invitation
Accessible in VR Headset or on PC as a fallback
My class is 30, but most rooms hold 60 in AltspaceVR
Teacher/professor should be comfortable moving and interacting in VR
Teacher/professor has a PC (not a mac)
1. Changing Settings for Early Access and Beta
2. Creating a Group
3. Creating a World
4. Creating an Event for a Group in a World
5. Customizing the World
6. Starting and Hosting Class(Event)
Here is a video tutorial to walk you through it or you can read the steps below.
Some of these steps are best performed in the AltspaceVR Client/App and some through the Altspace Web Browser. Some things are best done in the VR headset and some in the PC version of the App. I will try to make clear where you should be by labeling things “In browser,” “in App,” (PC Client), and “in Headset” (VR Headset).
In the App or Headset, go to Menu → Settings → General.
Select or Turn on “Participate in Early Access Program and “Enable Beta Worlds”
Turning these on will enable the Groups features from the Web Browser ‘More’ drop-down menu. (Not in the docs when I was working on this but got an answer from Discord Troubleshooting board)
Creating a Group
Now that that beta/early access is turned on in the App/Headset, you can go to the web browser, and there will be new items found under the ‘More’ drop-down menu.
Select Groups and then click the Create button.
Fill out the necessary information and select an environment. For now, you can leave the Member’s field blank or put in the username (not display name) of your students. You will put one member per line.
Hint: Keep them in Alphabetical order because this is not the ideal UI for managing user groups, and you might need to add and remove students at different times.
For the two Images fields, you need a 1920x1080 and a 512x512 .jpg. I suggest jpg because it is smaller in file size than PNG, and you can’t use transparency anyway. These are the promo banners. Make them unique and custom to your school/class etc. Upload those files in the respective fields.
The other fields are optional and put a youtube video or twitter feed on your public group browser page. (Not necessary for my class)
When choosing the environment, this is for your common area. I initially choose the board room because I thought this would be my classroom, BUT there is a bug in the Common Space, and members of the group can’t see your screen. So, I changed to something very different than a classroom, something more fun.
Update/Submit the Group.
Once you have a Group, then you can create an Event from your Group page in the browser on the left sidebar.
Enter the info, including start and start time. I had the events start 15 minutes early and go 15 minutes after class time because I was not sure if the students would be able to get in early or might get kicked out if they say around to talk.
Make the event private, or random people will show up for your class.
Open the Advanced Options. You can create custom images. For the 1920x1080 banner image, I suggest it look similar to the group but slightly different, so your students can quickly tell the difference between a group and an event.
Create a 1920x586 image for the class. This image is an important image that your students will see in the App and Headset, so make sure it looks like a class image. This image is used to “promote” the event even though it is private; it is still essential.
You can add some extra info, and if you have created your custom World in Unity, you can import that here, but that is not what this article is covering, so skip that part.
Under the Advanced heading, make sure your group is selected.
On the right side, to select the environment, choose the best world for your classroom. I used the Board Room because it had a big screen to show slides and allowed for plenty of space to host small groups.
Now that you have a group and an event, you might need to go and add your students into the group so they can access the event you just created and future events made in that group.
To add them go to your group page, select edit and go to the field, Add Member, and put in their username. I keep my list alphabetical, and I get their names by requiring all the students to send me a friend request. To see their names in Altspace App, go to Menu — People.
The next post will be about how I run a class in AltSpace and how to display slides and websites.