University of Southampton OCS (beta), CAA 2012

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Teaching Cultural Heritage and 3D Modelling through a Virtual Reconstruction of a late Middle-Age Church
Andres Bustillo, Ines Miguel, Lena Saladina Iglesias, Ana Maria Peña, Laura Martinez

Last modified: 2012-01-31


An educational experience is reported here that centres on a 3D reconstruction of a cultural heritage building: the Church of the Charterhouse of Miraflores, Burgos (Spain). An interactive experience of approximately 40 minutes, it fully exploits the potential of virtual environments to enhance learning. A drawback of short educational experiences is insufficient time to build trust between teacher and student, something which virtual environments can counteract, by stimulating interest and focusing the concentration spans of the student. The experience took place at a “Virtual Reality” workshop, part of the tenth Science Week at Burgos University. It involved 400 students, mainly in further education, although around 25% were undergraduate students. The aim was for students to learn about medieval history and art through architectural aspects of this late medieval church. At the same time, they had the opportunity to identify the main stages and concepts of 3D computer graphics generation.  The educational experience comprised four steps. First, a History of Art lecturer and a Computer Science lecturer presented the virtual reconstruction of the church to students. Then, under the close supervision of a lecturer, they worked on the 3D model of the building and its shaders and lighting. Subsequently, they interacted in small groups with the 3D model in a virtual reality room. Finally they responded to a survey and shared their opinions of the interactive experience.  The survey evaluated the strengths and weaknesses of the experience. It also looked at how students understood the process of virtual recreation and related historical and artistic aspects. A number of conclusions were noted. The first is the students’ solid understanding, after the experience, of the significance of the building, as a holistic representation of religious and social reality in the late Middle Ages. Students also demonstrated their understanding of relevant aspects of computer science, such as the advantages and disadvantages of 3D Virtual Reality for such reconstructions. The second conclusion is that although high-school students understood the main concepts, their understanding of the information sources for the historical reconstruction of the building was less well developed than the understanding of university students. They focused more on interaction with the 3D model than on developing their understanding of its historical aspects. This result underlines that a 3D Reconstruction is able to hold the attention of less-specialized groups. Although all the students found the process of 3D modelling “easy”, regardless of gender, the survey results revealed higher interest among male students than among female students in completing such a 3D model by themselves. Finally, it may be noted that interest in visiting the real building increased among students after the virtual tour. This highlights the potential of 3D virtual environments as a educational tool for short educational experiences, not only to teach a range of concepts, but also to enhance cultural interest and understanding among people without specialist knowledge of the subject.


Teaching; 3D Modelling; Virtual environments; Middle-Age; Short educational experiencies