Our project will be available to anyone, either through the Oculus store or downloaded here from tour website. Our initial target audience, however, will be K-12 educators, Nevada State Museum visitors, and Boulder City Museum visitors. We have learned through our NEH summer programs that this will particularly benefit teachers in low-income areas whose students will likely never have the chance to visit Hoover Dam in person.
Although VR Hoover Dam can be used as a stand-alone experience, non-digital components will be made available to teachers to promote discussion, interpretation, and curricular integration. Drawing on materials created as part of Hoover Dam and the Shaping of the American West NEH summer Workshops and Institutes, as well as the in-depth lesson plans created by our curriculum development team, we will provide additional documentation for lesson plans, discussion topics, resource guides, and so forth to augment VR Hoover Dam.
We do recognize that the delivery of our content to classrooms poses a logistical problem because most schools do not have VR headsets. This is especially true for those in gateway communities or low-income areas that often have little access to any technology at all, let alone state-of-the-art digital resources. However, with the latest iterations of fully independent VR (such as with the Oculus Quest $399-$499) that do not require being tethered to a high-end computer to run, we plan to offer a “VR Hoover Dam in a Box.” This will allow educators to order a VR that comes pre-programmed and includes lesson plans and other educational resources. Teachers could use it in the classroom and send it back, or send it directly along to the next school. The only potential cost to them would be shipping. Other schools or museums with more funding could simply download the program and use their own equipment. There are also very low-cost (under $10) VR headwear options such as Google Cardboard (http://t.ly/YObzl) that use a smartphone. Although this significantly degrades the VR experience, it could be another distribution avenue. Additionally, some local and university libraries are starting to offer VR equipment that can be checked out just like other technologies such as laptops, DVDs, and so forth. As VR popularity grows, the cost of equipment will decrease as well as the barriers to access