Farshida Zafar, project leader Online Education & Innovation at Erasmus School of Law, developed a digital exercise court that can be accessed via VR glasses. Working with a multidisciplinary team, she developed a Virtual Reality Courtroom that provides the experience of an accessible, lifelike court environment.
Inside the virtual reality, students become players in the middle of the courtroom. This way they’re getting acquainted with court proceedings at an early stage, and get the opportunity to practice as a lawyer or public prosecutor in an almost lifelike environment. Currently still a prototype, the VR Court will soon be accessible to all ESL students. In the future, Erasmus School of Law (ESL) hopes to offer bachelor of Law students the added option of practicing time and place independently.
Virtual reality in education
Farshida Zafar: "I got the idea when I went to an education and technology conference in California a few years ago. I attended a workshop from Brown University. They were engaged in a number of experimental VR spaces, such as a VR cave and a VR yurt. What I noticed was that there were several projects, but none were integrated with education.
So I started researching the literature and discovered that VR projects that are embedded in education hardly existed. As part of the SURF innovation challenge in 2016, I submitted a proposal to build a prototype that would eventually lend itself to educational use. With this prototype, students can now get to know court situations in a virtual environment. I want to continue developing the prototype, so I’m looking hard for funding. My ambition is that later on, students, thanks to Virtual Reality, will be able to practice their legal skills and train verbal skills in a real-life courtroom setting.'
Zafar won the Techionista Award (Tech Leader) earlier this year. 'I was very proud to win that prize. At first I thought it was a joke. There were women on the same list, women in Tech, to whom I look up to very much. At first I was astonished, and then very proud that I won. I’d describe myself as a ‘tech geek’ with a master title. There are endless possibilities at the crossroads of law and technology. These days, data leaks and privacy are getting a lot of attention, and rightly so, but let’s not forget that technology does more than just affect our privacy.’