THE POTENTIAL OF 360-DEGREE VIDEOS FOR TEACHING,
LEARNING AND RESEARCH
Lecture in Higher Education, Learning Design
Digital Media for Learning Scholar
Faculty of Science
University of Technology Sydney (AUSTRALIA)
Cutting-edge video technologies have the potential to impact teaching, learning and research by providing
more efficient, flexible and immerse experiences. In the early 90s, Apple developed QuickTime Virtual
Reality (QTVR), and it can be considered an inspiration for 360-degree videos. QuickTime VR technology
used a series of pictures and stitched them together cylindrically (images wrapped around the viewer)
using a QuickTime movie file. Users were able to scroll up and down, right and left, zoom in and out and
even click links that contained audio or pop-up windows. In the late 90s, applications such as PanoViewer
were developed using Flash that has similar functionality. With the mobile phone (2007) and tablet
revolution (2010), these applications became redundant, and mobile applications started to offer VR
experiences. Regrettably; it never has a massive uptake for education nor the general public. Twenty
years later, the 360-degree video cameras were introduced, and YouTube support for 360-degree videos
started (2015). Currently, there are more than twenty 360-degree video camera brands on the market.
The growth of action cameras and applications may inspire this trend. This paper covers the technical
side of 360-degree videos and discusses their potential application for teaching, learning and research.
Keywords: 360-degree videos, VR, virtual reality, video in education, augmented reality.
Virtual Reality (VR) can be defined as an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real-
life situation. It immerses the user by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality
firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing. Virtual Reality can be created and enhanced
for two purposes: for entertainment or to enhance training for real-life scenarios. Using VR in training, it
will allow learners to practice beforehand (e.g., surgery simulations, flying simulations, driving simulations,
and so on). Virtual reality is facilitated by Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML). This code can use a
series of images and specify what type of interactions are possible. In contrast, Augmented Reality (AR)
uses additional layers of computer-generated enhancements to an existing reality to make the experience
more meaningful and interactive. For example, Microsoft Mixed Reality is a combination of VR and AR,
mediated by motion-activated commands.
The development of 360-degree videos has been included in the category of VR, although it has been
disputed. For some experts, VR refers to interactive experiences where the viewer’s motion can be
tracked to allow real-time interactions within the virtual environment. In the 360-degree videos, the
locations of viewers are fixed, and they are limited to the camera angles captured by the device.
Therefore, users cannot interact with the environment. However, other opinions highlight the fact that
users can navigate right, left, up, down and zoom in and out the 360-degree videos. In real life, the vision
is limited to an angle view and, if a person requires looking right, left, up and down, the body, head and
eyes are required to perform a movement. The human eye cannot zoom in and out on a landscape, but
this is possible with 360-degree videos. As a relatively new field, VR and AR have not been studied
comprehensively in the field of education. Most information is available on websites and may be users’
opinions rather than evidence-based information.
This paper presents the technical side 360-degree videos and evaluates their possible application in
teaching, learning and research settings. It unfolds technologies such as QuickTime VR as the possible
inspiration of 360-degree videos.
2 THE QUICKTIME VR (QTVR) STORY
In the early 90s, Apple Inc. developed QuickTime VR (QTVR) as an image file format. It allowed the
creation and viewing of panorama images taken at multiple angles or with fisheye lenses (180 degrees).
Users were able to navigate an ‘spherical image’ and to interact with it like zooming in and out. There
were two types of QTVR, cylindrical (360° image wrapped around the viewer), and cubic (cube of six 90°
× 90° images surrounding the viewer). QTVR allowed embedding ‘hot spots’ into the panorama, which
when selected can invoke some action, for example moving to another panorama node, trigger an audio
file or a popup note, and so on. This technology functioned as a plugin for the standalone QuickTime
Player, and QuickTime Web browser plugin. In the beginning, one of the limitations of this technology was
the authoring tool suite price (US$ 2,000) and the fact that could only run on a high-end Apple computer
(US$ 4,000). Additionally, the software had a long learning curve and used to crash often. At this time,
there was no broadband; digital cameras were in their infancy and projects need to be shared using
Photo CD. In the late 90s, the second version of the software (QTVR 2.0 Authoring Studio) was released
for $500 and became more accessible to users. The flexibility of QTVR allowed the creation of truly
immersive and interactive multimedia content .
In higher education, some disciplines took advantage of QTVR, for example, anatomy [3-5], veterinary ,
histology , surgery , teacher education [9, 10], and pathology . The QTVR technology offered a
potential to help educators to showcase students complex scenarios that will be difficult to explain with
pictures, text or even standard video. Nevertheless, QTVR did not have a massive uptake in higher
education. Conducting a literature search on QuickTime VR using Education Research Complete
database, only 39 papers appeared (33 from magazines and four from peer-reviewed journals). These
results could confirm the research in the field is not robust.
Support for QTVR was limited in 2009. Apple launched QuickTime X and dropped the support for QTVR
due to the vulnerability of the Adobe Flash Player and security issues. Regrettably, QuickTime X does not
play QTVR content. Not until 2015, Apple finally destroyed their QTVR creation by a security update that
removed QuickTime plug-in which played panoramas. QuickTime VR can be considered the precursor of
Flash panorama applications that emerged in the middle of 2000 and probably influenced the
development of 360-degree videos.
3 THE INTERACTIVE PANORAMAS
In the early 2000s, many panoramas building tools were available at the market and were Adobe Flash-
based applications. Examples of them are Panoweaver and Tourweaver (EasyPano). These applications
were relatively easy to use and provided the possibility to create virtual tours stitching images, adding
sounds, visuals and so on. The Real Estate industry took advantage of this technology to develop virtual
tours of properties. The only issue was that they were Flash-based and content cannot play anymore in
modern browsers, tablets or mobile phones. The real problem was that Adobe Flash plugin has security
issues, drain the battery of the mobile devices, and it was designed for mouse click rather than
touchscreens. All of these issues caused Adobe Flash to become obsolete, and content producers
migrated to HTML5, CSS3 and JQuery .
With the smartphone revolution that started with the first iPhone (2007), a new generation of 360-degree
applications based on HTML5 architecture increased popularity on Apple Store (iOS) and Play Store
(Android). There are also desktop applications that have similar functionality that Flash-based panoramas
such as Marzipano, Panellum, Chief Architect, and Photo Sphere. These technologies use HTML5,
great performances on modern browsers. Although these technologies are currently available, they never
became mainstream in web design and its use is limited to tourism, real estate and so on.
4 360-DEGREE VIDEOS
Twenty years later, after the death of QTVR, the obsolescence of the Flash-based applications, and the
low uptake of 360-degree mobile applications, 360-degree videos cameras emerged for the prosumer
level (US$90 - 1,000), and professional level (US$1,000 - 60,000). YouTube and Facebook were one of
the first services that supported publishing and viewing 360-degree videos (2015), then VLC Player
(2016), and Vimeo (2017). Regarding 360-degree cameras, there are more than 20 brands on the market.
B&H Photography store, one of the largest technology stores has listed up to 30 different models, so the
360-degree camera offer is vast now. The development of a vast offer of action cameras may inspire this
trend. GoPro, one of the leaders in the market announced last year OMNI their first 360-degrees camera
The 360-degree videos in conjunction with AR can be considered the latest innovation in digital media.
However, with so many other options available (standard video, animations, infographics, blended media),
how can educators ever be certain that they are choosing the right medium to convey their message?
Just because 360-degree videos are hot right now does not mean they are right for teaching and learning.
The first question to consider is: will filming using 360-degree videos improve the learning experience? It
is the scenario to film interesting, engaging and immersive in all directions that justify filming in 360?
Finally, will the benefits of 360-degree videos outweigh the drawbacks? These questions could be
answered with specific scenarios and learning outcomes to be fulfilled. Section 5 provides some insights.
4.1 Advantages of 360-degree videos
By using 360-degree videos, it is possible for viewers to experience the full location and to engage further
with the material presented. Dragging the 360-degree video up, down, left and right will provide users with
an interactive experience never thought before. In other words, the user gets to decide where they look
and when. Platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Vimeo are offering now 360-degree video
streaming, so users can upload their content and share with the world.
There is a vast offer regarding 360-degree video prosumer level cameras, more than 20 brands on the
market (US$90 - 1,000). Additionally, VR headsets became inexpensive, for example, Google cardboard
which uses a split screen can be used. These headsets can be found from U$$ 10 – 100 at supermarkets
and gadget shops.
It has been stated that 360-degree videos offer a unique sense of presence and immersion not possible
to achieve using traditional videos. This immersion is due to viewers connecting with the content in a
meaningful and emotional way. For example, the stereoscopic sound of these videos facilitates viewers to
connect with the content as it directs attention to the story. The 360-degree videos are a new frontier and
offer vast opportunities to explore fresh and innovative digital media communication. These videos can
produce exceptional results but may not be the right choice to achieve student learning outcomes. The
360-degree videos can be used to educate young children in human emotions and empathy via
immersing them in a real-life scenario using, for example, footage of a community living in extreme
4.2 Limitations of 360-degree videos
Video composition techniques have developed what is called ‘the grammar of the shot’, which is a
standard that video producers utilise to convey a story. For instance, the use of a long, medium, close-up
and extreme close up shots are typical examples of this ‘language’ . Additionally, the object on the
shot is composed followed the rule of thirds. This technique involves imaginary division of the screen
using two horizontal lines and three vertical lines, then position the important elements of the scene along
those lines or point where they met, as shown in the example (Figure 1). In the case of 360-degree
videos, due to its nature, these video composition principles cannot be applied as users can navigate
across the scene by dragging right, left, up and down. This cause that 360-degree videos cannot hide the
operator but can hide the camera, but the stitch is not perfect, and post-production will be required. On
the other hand, it is hard to hide cuts (Figure 2), 360-degree videos rely heavily on single takes, and it is
not possible to zoom in or out while recording.
Figure 1. Example of rule of thirds
Figure 2. 360-degree camera image hiding the camera but showing stitch imperfections
As 360-degree videos are built with two single shots (Figure 3) stitched together (Figure 4), if a person or
an object that has a clear shape cross the stitch lines, it will produce a blur that is difficult to correct in
post-production. The 360-degree cameras currently on the market perform poorly in low light conditions
(Figure 5). Another limitation is related to the proximity of objects to the camera. For example, objects
located under 1 meter away from the camera will have a warp (curved) effect (Figure 4). In contrast,
objects 6 meters far away from the camera lose their stereoscopic depth, also called tridimensional
feature (Figure 6). Due to the need to stitching the video, the professional production of the 360-degree
video is time-consuming and expensive.
Figure 3: Two single shots before stitching
Figure 4: Shots stitched automatically with 360 Action Director software
Figure 5: 360-degree camera poor performance under low-light conditions
Figure 6: The horizon has lost the stereoscopic
depth or tridimensional feature.
Due to the characteristics of 360-degree videos, the
editing and post- production process is
labour intensive and complex. There are no
standards to follow on how to edit this type of
videos. Depending on the camera, some footage
required to be stitched before editing. For example, Gear 360 (Samsung Electronics), produces
unstitches images that require processing with the Gear 360 Action Director ( Figure 3). Files originated
from the 360-degree video are massive, and high-power computers are required to edit smoothly. For
instance, editing a two-minute 360-degree video using a high-end system (Macintosh, i7, 32 GB RAM,
Solid State Hard Drive) and Premiere Pro CC2018 was slow. Rendering took time, and video frames
dropped when previewing the videos. Additionally, video and audio were out of synch while editing which
makes challenging to edit.
The 360-degree video is not advance enough to meet high expectations, and the fidelity will not improve
until devices can handle 8K resolution. Although the offer of 360-degree cameras is vast, the future of
them is uncertain. There are mixed views from video experts on YouTube channels, gimmicky or a true
transformation of user experiences using video? It has been pointed that 360-degree video may follow the
pathway of 3D TVs, minidiscs and other technologies that never had a massive uptake. As educators, we
need to engage with new technologies and to evaluate their possible impact on teaching and learning
scenarios, think creatively and be relevant to the times we live. In that regard, 360-degree videos could be
a potential tool in the educational technology repertoire.
5 POSSIBLE APPLICATIONS IN EDUCATIONAL SETTINGS
5.1 Virtual tours
360-degrees video can be used in education as a way to showcase complex scenarios that are difficult to
explain with images, words or even conventional video. For example, in the area of early childhood
education, 360-degree video can be used to help pre-service teachers to navigate around an early
childhood setting before their professional placement. Students will be able to see how the room,
elements and design are made and identify a key aspect of an adequate environment for the children.
Nanlohy used QTVR approach in the late 90s at the Masters of Teach Primary Program, School of
Education, University of Western Sydney. The rationale was to provide students with their first detailed
look inside real classrooms as they have to wait until the 4th-5th-year program for their first practicum.
QTVR was also used to showcase primary classrooms in aboriginal communities for students to have a
feel of their potential work environment (personal communication, Dec 25, 2017).
For this approach, the 360-degree camera needs to be placed in the middle of the room and start
recording. The operator will need to get off the room for 30 seconds; then the video can be stitch with the
software, cut and edited, and upload to YouTube or Vimeo sharing services. The final step will be to
embed into the Learning Management System (LMS) and ask the students to watch and reflect. Is there
any difference between using QTVR/Panorama 360 and 360-degree video for this purpose? The answer
is no; there is no further enhancement for the students. The advantage of using 360-degree video is that
this can be done quickly as basic production and editing can be done on the spot using a mobile phone or
tablet. Another example is to use this approach to showcase institution’s facilities, for example, in our
Faculty, the Superlab video to showcase the premises to students before enrolling in their degree. Again,
this could be done with previous techniques such as QTVR or Panorama 360. The advantage using 360-
degree video is that the instructor can be on screen and narrate the video, creating teacher presence.
This approach falls into what is called virtual tours and has been used by educational institutions in the
In biological sciences, 360-degree video cameras can be used to record field trips to showcase the
context to students before they go to their practicum. For example, environmental remediation, geological
processes, ecology, animal behaviour subjects and so on. In forensic science, 360-degree video can be
used to record the crime scene and help the students to observe it after the tutorial. In this case, high-end
360-degree cameras may be required as resolution and detail are crucial.
Other applications to be considered are virtual tours to libraries, museums, premises, and so on. In this
case, the 360-degree video needs to be recorded for few seconds as the users will need to stop the video
player and explore the frame further dragging right, left, up, down and zoom in and out.
5.2 Class recording for pre-service teachers
The application of 360-degree video recording a classroom can be a powerful tool for pre-service
teachers to explore further the classroom settings and the activities the students are performing. This was
not possible before with standard video. It seems like 360-degree video recording can be a more
authentic way and probably less intrusive technology to record classrooms. A study conducted by pre-
service teachers in physical education found that 360-degree video helped students to understand the
context and reconstruct the classroom situation and its meaning . It has been postulated that 360-
degree videos can capture complex human interactions that can be playable as many times as possible
5.3 Improving presentation skills
A promising application of 360-degrees videos in the classroom is to record student’s presentations and
capture interactions between the presenter, the audience and their reactions. These videos can be used
to reflect and improve presentation skills by filling reflection sheets a week later after the presentation
. Additionally, job interviews simulations can be recorded in 360-degree to prepare final year students
to apply for jobs.
5.4Evaluation of educational interventions
360-degrees video can be used to evaluate and improve a new task or activity implemented in the
curricula. For example, tutors can record student interactions at the lab and watch later to see how the
task was taking and how students were working together. Tutors can reflect on their performance as well
and improve in the next classroom. This application will require all students to be agreed to be part of the
video for evaluation purposes.
5.5Research and data collection
For researchers, 360-degree video unveils the opportunity to record observations more accurate. For
example, if using observational techniques for studying group collaboration and participation, the 360-
degree video offers a unique, non-invasive opportunity for data collection. 360-degree cameras are small
and not noticeable and may not influence the behaviour of participants.
6 THE FUTURE
The notion of 360-degrees view has been around since the early 90s, and it reshaped to the new 360-
degree video devices currently in the market. Research in the field of 360-degree video for teaching and
learning is in its infancy, but it has a potential to become a powerful tool in the educational technology
repertoire. Limitations of current technology can be considered: i) no standards to edit 360-degree video;
ii) resolution of devices are not high-end for the prosumer level; iii) issues with stitches and video editing
tools need to be addressed; (iv) current file type requires powerful computers to edit the videos smoothly,
and; v) pedagogical use of 360-degree video need to be formally formulated. If these limitations are
addressed in the coming years, 360-degree videos can change the way people engage with digital media
for learning. Otherwise, there is a risk to follow the same pattern such as 3D TV, minidiscs and other
technologies that did not have the expected adoption by users. If we can think of creative and unique
ways to use 360-degree videos in the classroom, it could enhance the student learning experience.
To Vincent Varney and Samsung Australia for kindly donating the Gear360 camera.
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