Creating 360˚ virtual tours

Using H5P, one of the tools available on Gateway (Moodle, our VLE), you can easily create 360˚ virtual tours: a collection of 360˚ photos, which you can add texts, videos, pictures, links and multiple choice questions to. A 360˚ photo is a photograph which allows you to look in each direction.

Virtual soil, air and water tour

virtual tour

An example 360˚ virtual tour, developed by Dr. Felicity Crotty and Chantal Schipper for Catalyst module “4410 Making a positive impact on the natural environment and rural economy”, can be tried out via the link below:

Creating a virtual tour is surprisingly easy to do. All you need is:

  • A smartphone with the free Google Streetview app installed
  • A tripod with smartphone grip (can be borrowed from ITS if needed)
  • The H5P virtual tour content builder, which is already available on Gateway (our Moodle Virtual Learning Environment – VLE)

Check out the steps below to learn how to create a virtual tour.

Step 1: Planning your virtual tour

Before you go out and take photos, take a moment to think about:

  • What do you want the students to learn from this?
  • What 360˚ photos will you need to take?
  • What information (text, images, videos or links) will you need to give students to be able to achieve the learning outcomes?
  • What questions could you ask to allow students to check their learning?

Check your diary to select a time when you want to take the photo(s) and ask a Learning Technologist if the kit is available. A Learning Technologist may also be able to take the photo(s) for you. If you’re taking photographs outside, check the weather beforehand so it’s not raining.

Step 2: Taking the photographs


Once you are on location to take your photo(s), set up the tripod with the smartphone rig and insert your smartphone. Note that your smartphone must be kept in portrait mode (upright) for it to work in H5P.

Open up the Google Streetview app and click on the Camera icon on the bottom-right. Follow the instructions on the screen – you will be asked to point the camera at a collection of dots on the screen. Make sure you do not move the tripod until the 360˚ photo is complete, as this may cause odd seams in your 360˚ view.

Once the icon at the bottom turns green, click on it to save your 360˚ photo to your smartphone. You will be able to check your 360˚ photo once it has finished processing. There is no need to upload the photo to Google Maps – just save it on your smartphone.

You are able to combine multiple 360˚ photos together to create a tour of an area.

A video tutorial on using Google Streetview to create 360˚ photos can be viewed below:

Step 3: Creating your tour with information and questions

Before opening up Gateway, hook up your phone to your computer to copy the 360˚ photo(s) from your phone’s photo album (most modern phones have a USB plug in the charger). Alternatively, you could email the photo(s) to yourself from the phone’s photo album, then save them on your computer.

Then, log in to Gateway and go to the module you want to add your virtual tour to. Click on “Turn editing on”, then “Add an Activity or Resource”. Select “Interactive content” (black H5P icon) and click “Add”.

From this step, you will be able to follow the instructions on the H5P Virtual tour tutorial available here:

Once you have finished creating your virtual tour, scroll down to the bottom of the page and select “Save and display”. Do a run-through of your virtual tour to check for any mistakes. If you need to edit your virtual tour, go to the Administration block on the right and select “H5P > Edit settings”,

For any support, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the RAU Learning Technologists (Chantal Schipper, Aurelie Soulier or Marieke Guy).

Teaching with VR

Last week we had a visit from James Maltby, Learning Technologist at Plumpton College. Plumpton College is based in East Sussex and one of the RAU’s partner colleges. We oversee validation of a number of their postgraduate level courses.

James Maltby demonstrates a pole for the 360 degree camera

James Maltby demonstrates a pole for the 360 degree camera

James is an award-winning learning technologist and educational researcher specialising in blended and immersive teaching. His work embedding virtual reality within teaching has been featured on BBC Countryfile. He has presented research at the Association of Colleges, Blended Learning Consortium, Education & Training Foundation, and JISC.

In 2019, he was awarded a fellowship from the 1851 Royal Commission and the Education & Training Foundation to continue his research into how immersive technology is transforming technical teaching and STEM education. The programme is a a partnership of Sussex training providers in the United Kingdom exploring the effective use of 360°, augmented and virtual reality technologies within the classroom. You can read more about the project at:

Showreel from Plumpton College on Vimeo.

James started our workshop with some nearpod questions that got us thinking about our digital skills. After a brief history of virtual reality (from the Nintendo Virtual Boy released in 1995 to the Google cardboard of 2014 and Oculus Rift in 2016) and the state of current technology he demonstrated some of the learning and teaching videos Plumpton have made (see The videos range from countryside tours and forestry visits, to experiencing horse jumping and horse dissection. We were all able to try out the videos using an Oculus Go headset and see the relatively inexpensive tools used to create them – a Rioch Theta 360 degree camera and extension pole.

As a group we discussed quick and easy ways to get started. For example use of Google cardboard or Google streetview apps and embedding in H5P – see below.

RAU grass quad - click to view

RAU grass quad – click to view

We’d like to thank James for visiting us and sharing Plumpton’s exciting content with us. We’re raring to get started!

VR/360 ideas crowd sourced from the group

VR/360 ideas crowd sourced from the group

Sim Venture Evolution – the immersive experience of running a virtual company

How can you run a company and not worry about bankruptcy? Sim Venture!

At the RAU we already use Sim Venture Classic – the server-based business simulation game from Venture Simulations. As part of the development of our Catalyst programme courses we are looking at Sim Venture Evolution – a cloud based business simulation and strategy. Earlier today we had a visit from Lesley Strachan, Learning and Development manager at SimVenture, to show us how the system can be used to support businesses courses and facilitate learning.

Lesley Strachan - Learning and Development manager SimVenture

Lesley Strachan – Learning and Development manager SimVenture

Lesley spent time showing us how the software could be used within a course to allow students to start up their own business and test out ideas.

There is quite a lot of preparatory work to be carried out by academics and facilitators and they need to think about some of the following areas:

  • Which scenario do you want to go for? Create a business from scratch, use start up (bicycle scenario), grow a business to 10 years old?
  • Should it be run weekly? As a one-day event? As a competition?
  • What about teams? Or individuals?
  • How do you assess?

In the session we were provided with user logins and Lesley gave us a couple of team tasks to work through. We began by looking at 5 core skills areas (training ground, promotions, production, pricing, borrowing) and we then set up our own companies and competed to make the most profit.

Main dashboard

Main dashboard

Sim Venture comes with a comprehensive set of resources including over 120 single page case studies. The data from student sessions can be exported into excel and used in a variety of different supplementary ways.

It’s clear that Sim Venture Evolutions could prove to be a very useful tool for the Catalyst programme. We will be investigating using it on MBA modules and during the residential session.


Creating a bicycle company in Sim Venture Evolutions

VR immersive learning fieldscapes

Today David Burden, managing director of Daden Limited joined us to demo and talk about Fieldscapes and Datascape.

Daden have been working with 3D, VR and AI for over 10 years. In the past the projects they have worked on have been large-scale bespoke one-offs. However in 2015 Daden secured £230,000 of Innovate UK funding allowing them to develop their virtual field trip concept as a national service for schools and universities.

Fieldscapes allows those involved in teaching and learning to create 3D and VR immersive learning exercises for students. These then place the students in relevant locations so that they can better understand the context of what they are learning. Whilst initially developed for virtual field-trips Fieldscapes can be applied to almost any discipline: environmental and earth sciences are natural applications, but you can also use it to teach vocational subjects.

Using Fieldscapes the technically challenging task of creating 3D locations is separated from the pedagogically creative task of lesson and exercise creation. Once a location is published and shared on Fieldscapes it is easy for and educator to use the 3D editor to drag-and-drop objects around the location, and use Fieldscape’s forms-based PIVOTE virtual learning authoring system to create rich and diverse learning experiences.

David Burden from Daden Ltd

David Burden from Daden Ltd

David gave as overview of how an educator would set up a fieldscape by adding 3D props to a virtual landscape and then assigning actions to those props.

Recently Daden have been working with a number of other institutions to create virtual teaching landscapes including a virtual cow shed, moon walk and hill climb. One of their most most recent projects is working with the National Trust on creating a virtual Avebury.

Virtual cowshed

Virtual cowshed

While the projects are designed to work on standard tech solutions they can also be used with VR headsets like Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard.

Unfortunately David didn’t get time to show us Datascape – a separate application to display data in 3D and VR, particularly useful when you want to show time above a map. Daden are currently working to integrate the Datascape functionality into Fieldscapes so that you can use the Fieldscapes environment to view data within a multi-user, 3D modelled, environment.

Everyone who attended the talk was slightly blown away by the possibilities Fieldscapes offers. We hope to be able to work with Daden on some virtual RAU scapes in the future.

Digifest: VR, AR and tractor simulations

Digifest is the annual Jisc event which “explores the power of digital to ensure you can thrive in this ever-evolving technological environment”. There are plenaries, workshops and the Jisc Digi Lab in which delegates can try out the latest edtech.


I was only able to attend one day and focused on developments in Virtual and Augmented reality.

The most useful talk was by Preston college on Augmented reality and virtual reality on a virtual budget. They shared examples of their recent curriculum work using low cost tools (their entire spend was around £600). Their main purchases were a Samson gear 360 camera (around £300) and a structure sensor that attaches to an ipad (also about £300). The camera was used to make 3D films including a virtual tour of campus. The sensor was used to scan existing models to create 3D anatomy videos.  The videos were all put together using thinglink and sketchfab – both free tools, though you can pay for licences that are pretty low cost. If you’ve been reading the blog you will see that I’ve used Thinglink before. Their efforts were then embedded in the VLE. They already had some VR headsets to use with the students but also used cardboard VR headsets with phones.

Preston College demonstrate VR and AR

Preston College demonstrate VR and AR

More HE/FE VR case studies are available from the Jisc website.

The closing speaker was Shafi Ahmed, multi award winning surgeon, teacher, futurist, innovator, entrepreneur and evangelist in augmented and virtual reality. He explained why it’s the most interesting and exciting time ever to work in medicine where technology is breaking boundaries never possible before. Watch his Ted talk to be truly inspired.

I also had a go on the Tractor simulator from Tenstar Simulation – great fun and a really helpful teaching tool.


Interactive maps using ThingLink

I’ve been having a play with Thinglink – which allows you to create interactive online images for education. My first effort is an interactive virtual map of the RAU campus. The image can be integrated into a web page (see below) or linked to directly

The ThingLink education blog gives lots of information on potential for use in learning and teaching. Their main focus is on 360 virtual tours.

I’m sure RAU could make use of this technology for virtual farm and factory tours. Definitely one to investigate.