Huma 4301. 791 Virtual Reality in the 21

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HUMA 4301.791

Virtual Reality in the 21st Century (Finish@UT)

Summer II, 2014 – Term 143M

Dr. Thomas Hohstadt, Instructor

Overview of the Course


This course will provide the knowledge and skills necessary to participate constructively and creatively in today's increasingly "virtual" world.


Though the "Age of Virtual Reality" is still in its infancy, today's student lives increasingly in a virtual reality world. Through their video games, iPods, iPhones, online social networking, and movies, they are migrating precipitously toward "virtual space." So it has become an imperative for them to understand this moment in history. The course will offer a new veracity, a new authenticity, and a new credibility for the virtual experience. In other words, they will learn to test, discern, and ground the "evidence" of their experience. At the same time, they will learn to use this experience creatively in a world that demands their participation. (3 credits)

General Topics:

  • VR and this moment in history

  • The definition of VR

  • VR beyond technology

  • Historic origins

  • Immigrating to a virtual world

  • The language of VR

  • The role of emotions, feelings, and senses

  • VR as an art form

  • "Reality" versus "illusion"

  • Ethics and Mental Health

  • Future trends

Target Audience:

This is an interdisciplinary course for those interested in the future of a virtual world.

Course Prerequisites:


Required for any specific major/minor?

This course is required for anyone that is classified as a Humanities major.

Course Catalog Description:

A seminar examining virtual reality from aesthetic, philosophical, and psychological experiences.


Required Materials:

The text book for this courses was written by the instructor. It was completed and published during the summer of 2011. At the beginning of each week, students will watch the opening remarks video and then read the required text as outlined below the video. The "opening remarks" videos will be summaries and elaborations of the text material. This will be followed by related information on the web. 

Supplemental/Optional books:

(preferred books are marked with an asterisk)

  • Astrid Ensslin (Editor) & Eben Muse (Editor), Creating Second Lives: Community, Identity and Spatiality as Constructions of the Virtual (London: Routledge Publishers, 2011)

  • Derrick de Kerckhove, The Skin of Culture (Toronto: Somerville House Publishing, 1995) 

  • Edward Castronova, Exodus to the Virtual World: How Online Fun Is Changing Reality (New York: Macmillan, 2008 

  • * Ethan Gilsdorf, Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks: An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms (Guilford, CT: Lyons Press, 2009)

  • Fritjof Capra, The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Life into a Science of Sustainability (New York: Doubleday, 2002) 

  • George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy in the Flesh: The Embodied Mind and Its     Challenge to Western Thought (New York, NY: Basic Books, 1999)

  • James A. Herrick, Scientific Mythologies: How Science and Science Fiction Forge New Religious Beliefs, (Westmont, IL: IVP Academic, 2008)

  • * Jim Blascovich and Jeremy Bailenson, Infinite Reality: Avatars, Eternal Life, New Worlds, and the Dawn of the Virtual Revolution (New York: Harper Collins, 2011)

  • * Marie-Laure Ryan, Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003)

  • Michael Heim, Virtual Realism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998)

  • Michael Heim, The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993)

  • * Mychilo S. Cline,   Power, Madness, and Immortality: The Future of Virtual Reality (S. I.: University Village Press, 2005)

  • Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004)

  • * Peter Otto, Multiplying Worlds: Romanticism, Modernity, and the Emergence of Virtual Reality (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011

  • * Philip Zhai, Get Real: A Philosophical Adventure in Virtual Reality (Oxford, England: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1998)

  • Randall Packer & Ken Jordan, Multimedia: From Wagner to Virtual Reality, Expanded Edition (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2002)

  • * Ray Kurzweil, The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence (NewYork: Viking, 1999) 

  • Steven Johnson, Interface Culture: How New Technology Transforms the Way We Create and Communicate (New York: Basic Books, 1997)


The Internet will be used often for course examples.

Grading Policy

Distribution of Grade Points

Course Activities


Syllabus Quiz


Getting to Know Each Other


Quizzes (7) (50 points each)


Assignments (10) (50 points each)


Discussion Participation (6) (30 points each)


Final Exam




Grading scale:


Letter Grade

1062 and above


944 - 1061


826 - 943


708 - 825


707 and below


Course Activities


  • Assigned readings from the text book

    • Sample chapter: The Age of Virtual Reality: Introduction

  • Assigned readings from other web sites


In each of the 7 weeks, there will be a quiz over the materials covered during the week, including readings and lectures. Each quiz will be worth 50 points. There will be 7 quizzes (total 350 points). All quizzes will consist of true/false, multiple choice or matching type of questions.

In addition to the quizzes there will be a final exam. It will be over the materials covered during weeks 1 through 7. The final exam will consist of true/false, multiple choice or matching type of questions. It will be worth 100 points.

Note: Even though the final exam only covers the first 7 weeks, you are still expected to complete all reading and assignments for Week 8.


The students will submit 10 assignments during the 8-week semester. Each assignment is worth 50 points (total 500 points). The assignments will be completed on an online form and will emphasize reflective creativity on the related subjects.

Discussion Topics:

Students will participate in six discussion topics. Each discussion topic will be worth 30 points (total 180 points). Here are the five topics:

  • First impressions and concerns.

  • Examples of online VR that each student has discovered.

  • Examples of VR in everyday life.

  • Possibility that VR may redefine or even change reality.

  • Recommended precautions in the VR experience.

  • Closing thoughts regarding what you have learned.

Discussion Board Participation Requirement:

The Discussion Board will be used primarily for discussing course content and related issues. In addition to the course content, there will be other topics, such as Introductions, Technical Problems/Issues, and General Questions. The posts under these topics will not be graded.

For each graded discussion question, you must first respond to the question directly and, second, you must read the other students posts and reply to at least two other students responses. You must ensure that your responses to the questions are meaningful, reflective, refer to personal experience, and support your course readings. Avoid postings that are limited to “I agree” or “great idea,” etc. If you agree (or disagree) with a posting, then say why you agree by supporting your statement from the readings or by bringing in a related example or experience.

You are responsible for reading all of the messages that are posted in the online discussion. Not reading messages is the equivalent of “sleeping in class.”

Use a person's name in the body of your message when you reply to their message. It helps to keep all of us oriented. It also helps us maintain a clearer sense of who is speaking and who is being spoken to. As we begin to associate names with the qualities of expressions and ideas, we come to know each other better.

Change the subject line when you introduce a new topic. The value of this tip will become apparent as the number of messages grows.

University Policies

Cheating/Plagiarism/Academic Dishonesty:  

Scholastic dishonesty includes but is not limited to cheating, plagiarism, collusion, falsifying academic records, misrepresenting facts, the submission for credit of any work or materials that are attributable in whole or in part to another person, taking an examination for another person, any act designed to give unfair advantage to a student such as, but not limited to, submission of essentially the same written assignment for two courses without the prior permission of the instructor) or the attempt to commit such acts.

"Plagiarism" includes, but is not limited to the appropriation of, buying, receiving as a gift, or obtaining by any means material that is attributable in whole or in part to another source, including words, ideas, illustrations, structure, computer code, other expression and media, and presenting that material as one's own academic work being offered for credit.

NOTE: Students found plagiarizing or cheating will receive a zero on the course activity which could cause failure in the class and/or suspension or dismissal from the college.

Accommodation for Students with Disabilities:  

Americans with Disabilities Act: Students with disabilities that are admitted to The University of Texas of the Permian Basin may request reasonable accommodations and classroom modifications as addressed under Section 504/ADA regulations.   Students needing assistance because of a disability must contact Dr. Efren D. Castro, Director, Programs Assisting Student Study (PASS) Office, 552-2630, no later than 30 days prior to the start of the semester.

The definition of a disability for purposes of ADA is that she or he (1) has a physical or mental impairment that substantively limits a major life activity, (2) has a record of such an impairment or, (3) is regarded as having such an impairment.

Students who have provided all documentation and are eligible for services will be advised of their rights regarding academic accommodations and responsibilities.   The University is not obligated to pay for diagnosis or evaluations nor is it obligated to pay for personal services or auxiliary aids.

If you need accommodations because of a disability, if you have emergency medical information to share with the instructor, or if you need special arrangements in the case the building must be evacuated, please inform the instructor immediately.   It is best to contact the instructor after class or during his/her office hours.

Course Incomplete/Withdrawal/Grade Appeal:

All students are required to complete the course within the semester they are signed up. Incomplete grades for the course are rarely given and will only be granted if the student has complete at least 75% of the course with a grade of 'C' or better and provides a valid, documented excuse for not being able to complete the course on time and has contacted prior to the scheduled last class to request an extension. The student will sign a contract that includes the incomplete course activities and the new due dates.

For grade appeal process go to

Course Policies

Attendance and Class Participation:

Regular and active participation is an essential, unmistakably important aspect of this online course. The expectation of the instructor is that students will log on a minimum of three times every seven days. It is critical that you read all of the lecture and assignment materials as well as all of the public discussion materials. Your full participation ON A WEEKLY BASIS is not only a requirement, it is also an essential aspect of the online course process. All students are expected to do the work assigned, notify the instructor when emergencies arise, and make up assignments no later than the due dates.


Anything you type in the discussion area is public - which means that every student in this class (including your instructor) will see what you write. Please pay attention to the language you use and adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. Do not post anything too personal;

  2. Do not use language that is inappropriate for a classroom setting or prejudicial in regard to gender, race, or ethnicity;

  3. Do not use all caps in the message box unless you are emphasizing (it is considered shouting)

  4. Be courteous and respectful to other people on the list

  5. Do not overuse acronyms like you would use in text messaging. Some of the list participants may not be familiar with acronyms.

  6. If the posting is going to be long, use line breaks and paragraphs

  7. Fill in a meaningful Subject Line

  8. Write your full name at the end of the posting

  9. Be careful with sarcasm and subtle humor; one person's joke is another person's insult.

NOTE: If you do not adhere to the guidelines for any posting, you will lose the points that would have been granted, and the instructor reserves the right to remove your posting and to deny you any further posting privileges.

Refer to the following links for additional help on netiquette:

Make-Up/Late Submission Policy:

All course activities must be submitted before or on set due dates and times. If the student is unable to abide by the due dates and times, it is her/his responsibility to contact the instructor immediately. There will be a 10% deduction for each day of late submission of the assignment.      

NOTE: The due dates and times for the activities will adhere to the Central Time Zone.

Submission of Course Assessment Activities:  

Keep in mind the following standards/practices for submission of assignments:

  1. All course assessment activity files that will be submitted to the instructor should be in Word 2007 or .RTF

  2. Be sure to put your name at the top of each page header

  3. Always keep a copy of all the work you submit so that you won't need to re-do it if it should get lost in cyberspace.

Communication Policy - Grading and Feedback:

All the course activities will be graded one week after the set due date. You can check your grades by going to GradeBook. If there is any discrepancy in the grade, you must contact the instructor immediately. He will provide individual feedback or general feedback in the performance of the course activity.

Technical Information and Requirements


PC Configuration - A CPU with 1 GHz processor, 256 MB RAM and Windows XP operating system
Mac Configuration - A CPU with 300 MHZ (G3), 256 MB RAM and Mac OS X 10.2 or newer operating system 


External speakers will enable successful listening to audio files.

Software :

The course content will be presented as a presentation with audio lecture.  

Anti-virus Software

Anti-virus Software is highly recommended for students and instructors. Online courses involve much file sharing, which increases your risk of computer virus infection. Anti-virus software will help protect your computer in case of exposure to a computer virus.

Other software:

There may be audio/video files in the course for which you will need Windows Media Player or QuickTime or Real Player .

Internet connection :

Recommended - Cable modem, DSL, or intranet (T-1); or 128 KBPS modem Note: Corporate or academic security firewalls may block some course content, such as chat or streaming media. Accommodations for access can usually be arranged if you contact your network administrator, though local security policies ultimately dictate what is allowed.

Technical Information:

24/7 Technical Help   Browser Test       Browser Configuration   Download Plug-ins

Supported Browser:

Firefox 3.5 or higher for PC; and Safari 3.X - 4.0 for Mac

Download Firefox         Download Safari

Unsupported Browsers:  

America Online (AOL), Prodigy, Juno, MSN, Yahoo and other Internet Service Providers (ISPs), provide their own internal and proprietary web browsers. These browsers may not be compatible with online courses.

Preparation for Computer Emergencies

Computer Crash

Not having a working computer or a crashed computer during the semester will NOT be considered as an acceptable reason for not completing course activities at a scheduled time. NOTE: Identify a second computer before the semester begins, that you can use when/if your personal computer crashes.  

Server problems

When the Blackboard server needs downtime for maintenance, the Blackboard administrator will post an announcement in your course informing the time and the date. If the server experiences unforeseen problems your course instructor will send an email.

Complete Loss of Contact

If you lose contact with the instructor completely (i.e. you cannot contact him via Blackboard or email), you need to call him at his office, 432-552-3286, and explain the reason you cannot contact him. Please leave me a way to contact you.

Lost/Corrupt/Disappeared files

You must keep/save a copy of every project/assignment on an external disk or personal computer. In the event of any kind of failure (e.g., Blackboard server crash or virus infection, students own computer crashes, loss of files in cyberspace, etc) or any contradictions/problems, the instructor may/will request you to resubmit the files.   In other words, if you submit a document to the instructor, and either they do not receive it (lost in cyberspace) or it is corrupted when it is opened, it is incumbent upon you to resend it to the instructor, corrected, with little or no "downtime" in regard to the timeline for submission.

Student Support Services

ADA Accommodation/Support 


Admissions & Registration & Transcripts


Blackboard Technical Support 

1-877-633-9152 (toll-free)





Financial Aid and Scholarship


UTPB Library

(432) 552-2370

Student Services

Tutoring & Learning Resources


If you are taking courses through UTPB the following links provide services: Smarthinking Online Tutoring (provides tutoring services), SmarterMeasure (measures learner readiness for online course).

End-of-Course Evaluation & Instructor Evaluation

Every student must complete an end-of-course evaluation provided by UTPB.

Disclaimer & Rights

Information contained in this syllabus was considered correct and complete to the best knowledge of the instructor when distributed for use in the beginning of the semester. However, the instructor reserves the right, acting within the policies and procedures of UTPB, to make changes in the course content or instructional techniques without notice or obligation. The students will be informed about the changes, if any.

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