Pupils around the world to enjoy virtual reality Robert Burns lesson

25 January 2021
Dr Pauline Mackay from the University of Glasgow’s Centre for Robert Burns Studies has worked with edify VR experts to create a virtual lesson on Scotland’s national bard, allowing a global audience to explore Burns's work.

Dr Mackay is now able to teach live lessons about the material culture that has been generated by Burns’ fame - and specifically by his supernatural epic Tam o’ Shanter - to an international audience from her virtual classroom at Alloway Auld Kirk in Ayrshire, Scotland.

The first live virtual lesson, via Zoom, will take place on 30 January and it is hoped this will be the first in a series to a broad international audience of school children, students, academics and Burns’ admirers. 

In lockdown, communications platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have come into their own, allowing many students to be taught remotely. Edify has combined VR technology and video conferencing to allow teachers and students to explore and learn in virtual environments.

Through the edify platform, anyone is able to dial-in to an instructor’s 3D lab or classroom environment. 

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Exploring Tam o' Shanter

Dr Mackay said: “Edify’s immersive technology will enable a host of relevant objects from disparate locations to be brought together and examined in the context of Burns’s most iconic poem, ‘Tam o’ Shanter’, in the environment that inspired the work, Alloway Auld Kirk, complete with the resplendent imagery of the poem. 

“In a sense, it enables us to create a comprehensive ‘site of memory’, which is a real game changer in terms of the way we teach memory studies, and for the way people learn about the legacy and commemoration of important literary and historical figures. 

“The possibilities for the implementation of this model in education, culture and heritage are limitless.”

The Burns lesson using ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ is the latest VR classroom to be created on the platform. It is also being used for students studying topics including physics, history and anatomy.

As well as being able to take part in a lesson on ‘Tam o’ Shanter’ from the virtual Alloway Auld Kirk, students will also be able to discover more about the growth of the popularity of Robert Burns and his poetry, after his death, through their memorialisation in material culture (everything from relics, to souvenirs and domestic objects).