Facebook Workrooms: can we use it for education?

Facebook Horizon Workrooms is a new free virtual-reality remote workspace for those who own an Oculus Quest 2.  

This virtual environment is made to ease remote work and you can join the Facebook Horizon Workrooms with a VR headset or from a computer or a Mac. In facebook workrooms you can talk to people as avatars, share documents and screens, use whiteboard, and even bring your own virtual desk.

The XR PEDAGOGY’ team has tested Facebook Horizon Workrooms and the first idea that cross our minds was : could we use it for remote education and in particular for homeschoolers who fancy Virtual Reality

– I point out that this article is absolutely not sponsored. –

 

What is facebook Workrooms?

  • let’s work together in VR regardless of physical distance 

Workrooms is a collaborative virtual environment made for remote work. As Facebook says: “Workrooms lets people come together to work in the same virtual room, regardless of physical distance.

  • Collaborate, communicate, connect with a more natural flow 

Workrooms  is designed to improve our ability to collaborate, communicate, and connect remotely, through the power of virtual reality. You simply have better conversations that flow more naturally.

  • Workroom brings your desk reality in VR

It won’t bring the mess you have on your desk, don’t worry 🤐! It works across both virtual reality and through the web and bring together together a mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking, as well as hand tracking and remote desktop streaming.

Facebook workrooms: what are the interesting features for education?

facebook workrooms homeschoolers
  • 👉Together in VR: join in VR or by video call

Imagine  getting together your homeschoolers to brainstorm on a collaborative project with other homeschooler in the world! Everyone can join the workroom regardless of physical distance with great spatial audio.  Thanks to the video call feature, other student can join the virtual workroom from a computer or a Mac, even if they don’t own an Oculus Quest 2. Facebook claims that workrooms support up to 16 people in VR together, and up to 50 people total on a call, including video participants. 

  • 👉Meeting notes, file sharing, calendar integration, and chat: 

In Facebook Workrooms web app,  every room comes with a place on the web to capture notes and action items while you’re in a meeting, share links and files, and chat with other You can also sync your Outlook or Google Calendar to make it easier to schedule class? and send invites.

  • 👉Mixed-reality desk and keyboard tracking:

This is honestly really cool, 💜. It is very useful for instance if your homeschoolers are listening a presentation and they want to take notes on their PC.  We been experimenting different platform to meet in VR, and having the capacity to easily take notes when you have your headset, (believe us), is really an important feature. Homeschoolers and parents can have their personal workspace similar in VR and in real life. We think this is probably one of the most innovating thing about Facebook Horizon Workrooms.

  • 👉Hand tracking : designed to use your hands:

Workrooms was designed from the start to be used in VR with your hands, and not controllers, as primary input. This helps to create a more natural and expressive social experience and lets you switch more easily between physical tools like your keyboard and controllers when needed. Sometimes in VR you have such a feeling of “beeing ther”, that using your hands to interact seems spontaneously more natural. Horizon workrooms can track your real hands and you will learn how to take, switch, select, etc. …objects in the room. 

  • 👉Write, sketch and draw on the virtual Whitebord (blackboard):

Every room in Workrooms offers infinite possibility to ease homeschoolers collaborations. All the students can talk sitting at the desk but they can also stand up from the desk and join a whiteboard (actually a blackboard).   Write, sketch or draw on the whiteboard  is really easy and fun with the controllers. For the first time, you can use your controller in a new way by flipping it around and writing with it like a pen, either on the physical desk in front of you or standing with others at the whiteboard. 

  • Pin images on the whiteboard:

You can also pin images from your computer on the whiteboard and then mark them up and review with colleagues. Your whiteboards stick around in Workrooms for as long as you need them. And once you’re done, you can export any whiteboard out of VR to share as an image on your computer.

  • Share your screen, take advantage of presentations

Alternatively, parents and homeschoolers can also share their desktop on a big screen so that all the other homeschoolers can see it. This is always interesting for presentations.

  • Privacy- that’s what they said.

Facebook claims that nothing of what you do or say in Workrooms is used to profile youAnd you can trust them, because… 🤔can we? I mean if you are worry of your privacy stop use social network, smartphones and any VR experience using an Oculus…

“Workrooms will not use your work conversations and materials to inform ads on Facebook.”

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Strong points - Weak points of the beta version of Facebook Horizon Workrooms?

👎 Weak points for education and homeschoolers:

  • The long onboarding process:

Once you have downloaded it on your Quest 2, you need to set your desk area in VR and then use your PC to create a Workrooms account.  You will be requested then, to create a team, associate your Oculus Quest 2 with a code and download and install the application that mirror your desktop in VR and configure it.  When all this process (journey?) is done, you can create a room and invite other students and parents. You can check the article of the The Ghost Howls to learn more about this tricky process.

  • Only 16 people in the room in VR

The virtual Workrooms platform support up to 16 people in VR together, and up to 50 people total on a call, including video participants.  

  • Not easy to install and to use:

If you are not passionate about testing new adventure and you are already in pain with google meet or zoom, Facebook Horizon Workrooms is not for you. Let’s be honest, in this beta version, this is not easy to set a meeting with a students in VR and Pc.   

  • The need of different oculus/facebook and workrooms accounts:

If you have invested in a collection of Oculus quest 2 for your school, you may also face the problem of having multiple facebook accounts because each oculus quest need a facebook account (in theory). Therefore, unless you paid for the Oculus business licence, you need to have each VR headset logged with different facebook and thus workrooms account to be able to have students in the same workrooms with different avatars.

👍 Strong points for homeschoolers:

  • Friendly avatars with good sense of presence:

Avatars have really friendly appearances and when you are in The facebook Workrooms the sense of presence is nice and easy. Even if avatars don’t have the whole part of the body below the waist, It feels nice to be over there.

  • a defined location for the very practical whiteboard:

You can define a physical location for the whiteboard and facebook will help you to find your way to the whiteboard, both in virtual and in reality. Otherwise, you can use it from your desk. Everyone can write or draw on the whiteboard and  can also pin images from their computer on the whiteboard 

  • The ghost mode 👻:

If the users enter passthrough mode, or are doing some configurations, they become gray like a ghost or a long meditation posture.  It prevent weird poses of the avatars to happens as we can see in other VR Social platform. 

  • Take note in VR with the exact same setup you have in real life

We think that if you want as a parent or teacher teach in Workrooms it’s an interesting feature to have your desk in virtual reality similar as the one you are used to use in reality.  Teaching to students in VR is not so easy and find your familiar desk is a plus for education.

  • The environment, the rooms 

The environment of the meetings is a cozy office, the rooms are not crazy creative place but it looks really fine for all kind of project.

  • The Workspaces app is free:

The Workspaces app is free, although to use it you will need to invest in an Oculus Quest 2 headset,

  • No targeted ads and moderation :

Facebook is claiming that conversations over workspaces will not be used in targeted ads on its social media platform. and that anyone using the platform must follow its VR community standards.

Conclusion:

In conclusion,  Facebook Horizon Workrooms could be use for education. It could be an opportunity to encourage your homeschoolers to develop collaborative project  like in real life, even if they are physically distant from each other.However, studying or meeting in VR has sense only if you need to exploit the physicality, the collaboration or the three-dimensionality of a a virtual class. There are other VR meeting applications available that could also be interesting to consider for educational use, like Spatial, meetinVR  or Glue .

 
 
Géraldine Perriguey

By Géraldine Perriguey

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Share in the real world and in the virtual world! 🌎

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