Doctoral candidate helps train educators to use extended reality tools

Ali Asiri demonstrates how to use an oculus headset.
Ali Asiri wearing a VR headset, viewing the results of a student using a new app.

As a teen growing up in Saudi Arabia, Ali Asiri never could have foreseen what a positive impact playing the video game Resident Evil would have on his future career goals.

The Washington State University doctoral candidate in Language, Literacy, and Technology perfected his English language skills by playing the game with his family. This ultimately set him on his current path pursuing a PhD at WSU where Asiri provides a variety of professional development workshops and hands-on instruction to raise awareness of extended reality (XR) and how it can support teaching practices.

Asiri and his graduate advisor, Regents Professor Joy Egbert, started the XR Development Lab in WSU’s College of Education in 2022 with an idea and 15 Oculus headsets. As part of his work in the XR Dev Lab, Asiri has collaborated with the faculty of WSU’s Intensive American Language Center (IALC) to unlock the potential of using virtual reality (VR) in their teaching practices. He and his lab associates ensured the faculty understood VR, how it could be used in teaching, and the applications available. In addition, they had opportunities to use VR applications during the workshop and gained first-hand experience on how the tools could be used in classrooms. Asiri and his associates also visited classrooms to explain XR technologies and provide practical, hands-on demonstrations for faculty and students.

“We are not paid to do this (yet),” he said. “But our patience keeps us pushing the field forward.”

Egbert and Asiri currently have a grant proposal under review to support their collaboration with teachers and students in the Pullman school district. Their hope is to use the grant funding to further explore the possibilities of using XR technologies in the classroom. “It’s a win-win,” Asiri said, “because we learn from each other.”

Asiri’s work in the XR Dev Lab is an extension of his doctoral research, which focuses on finding research-based, effective, and practical ways to support teachers in using technology in their classrooms. As a result of his research, he developed a workshop design framework that can  be used in a variety of educational settings. “Each time I run a workshop, I keep in mind what I learned from my research,” Asiri said. “To me, it is more of putting my research theories into practice for the benefit of teachers, and that is very rewarding.”

With his dissertation defense scheduled for March and graduation in May, Asiri hopes to secure a professor position either in the US or back in Saudi Arabia. “Every day, I learn something new,” he said, “and am enjoying it.” Asiri credits much of his success to Egbert’s mentorship. “I can confidently work on securing funds, leading teams and projects, workshops, and conference sessions,” he said. “She has helped prepare me for the future.”

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