The University of Reading is home to students from over 150 countries with a reputable global presence from Johannesburg to Malaysia.
Known for its award-winning main campus in Whiteknights, UK, and recognized as one of Britain’s top green spaces, the University of Reading is also home to Matthew Nicholls, Professor of Classics.
Professor Nicholls is a bit of a hero in the SketchUp world, famous for his award-winning digital model of Ancient Rome, and on and offline courses for learners across the globe interested in historical architecture.
One of my passions is explaining and understanding the ruins, trying to imagine how they once were and communicating that to others.Professor Mathew Nicholls
Teaching History Through Technology
As a researcher and educator, Prof. Nicholls wanted to share his passion for the Roman Empire by bringing it to life using new technologies. After 10 years of hard work reconstructing the entire city of Ancient Rome, his dedication paid off in more ways than one.
By using virtual 3D reconstructions of Ancient Rome at the University as part of his curriculum, Prof. Nicholls has turned traditional teaching into an immersive experience while expanding the work alongside his students.
He’s also established an online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with the purpose of making Ancient Rome accessible to the masses using Kubity to explore in augmented and virtual reality, along with easy-to-use 3D walkthroughs on smartphones and tablets.
Leveraging Kubity’s technology has transformed the way Prof. Nicholls presents his research both on and off the field by taking his audience not just through the historical aspects of Ancient Rome, but also the artistic and creative side as well.
“Kubity has enabled me to incorporate live dynamic 3D into my online courses, which is a big plus for learners and something new for MOOCs,” says Nicholls.
After following web links to buildings from the model—generated by Prof. Nicholls using the Kubity web app—students can explore structures, question sight lines, research, and understand the architecture better. They can even change lights and shadows to reflect accurately what ancient Roman buildings looked like at any time of the day using the geo-located “time of day” feature.
Students can also tour these historical sites from different points of views at their own pace, giving them true-to-scale insight into the size and appearance of monuments you just can’t get from illustrations and 2D models.
Over 30,000 students so far have benefitted from Prof. Nicholls’ courses on the Roman Empire, with free runs of the MOOC scheduled regularly. The best thing about the course is that students don’t need to invest in any expensive equipment to be a part of the experience—they simply download the free Kubity Go mobile app for iOS and Android on their phone.
Another innovative way Prof. Nicholls is presenting his Ancient Rome model is through big screen presentations. Using Kubity’s screen mirroring feature, he can walk or fly around his models in real-time with students, making his courses more interactive while providing more depth to the history being discussed. Check out the Baths of Caracalla here.
“The overall point is that 3D content, once made, can be used, shared and explored in many different ways that lend themselves to imaginative use in teaching contexts.”
Kubity also offers instant AR and VR exploration. And although not mandatory with the course, students seeking a more immersive experience can try it out by clicking the AR or VR feature from the dropdown menu in Kubity Go.
Professor Nicholls has occasionally used AR and VR in his classes, and is exploring these features and looking for more ways to incorporate them in the future.