(University of Reading, Caversham, UK)

Keywords: 3D, MOOC, public, heritage, ancient history, digital visualisation.

Dr Matthew Nicholls has created a large-scale digital model of ancient Rome. The talk proposed here draws in particular on the most recent deployment of the digital modelling project in a five-week Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) launched on the FutureLearn platform in 2017, freely available to any learner. Cohorts progress through together, discussing their learning online as they go. The particular innovation that this paper will discuss is the embedding into the course of a series of ‘live’ digital models of ancient Roman buildings. This was done using the free service Kubity, which allows the user to rotate, scale and explore models on a computer desktop or via a free mobile/tablet app (example here). This was the first time 3D content of this type had been built into a FutureLearn MOOC and delivered at scale to a large cohort. The pedagogical idea behind this was that active exploration of a 3D environment is more compelling than viewing 2D static or moving reconstructed images. The first three runs of this course attracted 27,000 learners from around the world, creating a corpus of over 50,000 comments, many of which discuss responses to 3D reconstruction of ancient sites and to the process of engaging actively with 3D reconstruction. Initial sorting and ordering of this database of comments has been undertaken, with key findings starting to emerge. For example, we see a high level of enthusiasm for exploring models; a strong desire for the inclusion of sound; a range of responses to the user interface and to the learning gain of using such technology to think about ancient sites. The extent of this database of learner feedback constitutes an unusually large mass survey of public responses to digital reconstruction, and a summary of this feedback will be the core of this paper.

Relevance for the conference: It discusses mass feedback from tens of thousands of members of the public to detailed digital reconstructions of ancient Rome.
Relevance for the session: It addresses the panel’s concern to find common ground and practical solutions for presenting 3D cultural heritage to a public audience.
Innovation: The embedding of live user-manipulable 3D content into a mass public-facing free online course