Getting Started with Virtual Reality

posted in: "How To" Guides, Virtual Reality | 0

I’m presenting at Realities360! My presentation is titled “Getting Started with Virtual Reality.” I talk about several free and open resources and methods to create immersive 360 virtual reality experiences. Have low or no budget? No problem! Below, find resources related to my presentation, including the slide deck. At the bottom I list my favorite books and MOOCs related to VR.


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Virtual reality (VR) learning experiences are dramatically increasing in popularity. But how do you get started building VR? What if you have a low budget, or no budget at all? The cost of new technology and software, and the development time required, may thwart would-be VR developers. However, there are now several free software and media options that make it simpler and more affordable than ever to build VR.

As an academic that teaches in an instructional design program, I want to incorporate VR into our curriculum but I have to be mindful of both limited budgets (mine and the students’) and our limited time in class. We’re not going to spend a semester learning Unity to create interactive virtual worlds!

Furthermore, while there are instructional designers that focus entirely on VR, we’re preparing our students for a wide range of instructional design  careers that may not involve VR at all. But it’s very important that our students can appreciate the possibilities of VR!

I have found that the best compromise is to focus on creating simple VR experiences using 360 photos and videos built on open source software. No coding is required, and ‘open source’ means free to use. Adobe Captivate does now offer 360 functionality, but I’ve found it to be very glitchy. Our program bought a set of 360 cameras for students to borrow to take their own original photos, but there are tons of 360 images out there for free, and there’s even a free phone app that takes pretty high quality 360 photos with no additional tech required!

I’ve had the opportunity to use consumer-level 360 cameras, and I’ve read up on Unity and Unreal and a variety of open source VR world-building programs.

It’s not worth the study time or investment cost if you’re not even sure if VR is right for you!

Here are my recommendations for getting started with VR for free in just minutes:

  1. Find free 360 images online or create your own by downloading the Google Cardboard app (iOS/Android)
  2. Create an account with Vizor 360, and just drag and drop your 360 photos in
  3. Add markers to link the photos and to create informational screens
  4. Boom! Done. Publish and use it right away on mobile, desktop, or in a VR headset on your phone.

There are additional open source software that you might be interested in – H5P offers ‘virtual tours,’ and Vizor 360 also offers Patches, which allows visual programming of virtual worlds (no coding, but you can get lost in the visual programming so it’s a bit of a learning curve). You can also use Patches to insert 3D objects into flat 360 images.

If you find that VR is right for you, you can invest a few hundred dollars into a 360 camera and related gear and move along in your new obsession. If you find it’s not, there is nothing lost but a few minutes of your time!

Below, I’ve got links to all of these things, as well as additional resources like 360 photo editing, and some recommendations for books and MOOCs I found useful.

Have fun!


Slide Deck

Download slide deck


Examples of Virtual Reality


Open Source


  • Cenario
    Create interactivity virtual reality experiences with hotspots and quizzes using 360 media. Output compatible with SCORM and xAPI. Free trial available.
  • Adobe Captivate 2019
    Expensive and glitchy software. Create interactive virtual reality experiences with hotspots using 360 media. Publish for VR headsets, or create projects for desktop that mix 2D and 360 slides. 30-day trial, about $400 with academic discount.


360 Media

Free 360 Photos


Limit your search to Creative Commons images and be sure to cite. (How do I cite?)

Capturing 360 Images

Editing 360 Images

360 Image Hosting (View Photos in 360)

  • Flickr
    Host your 360 photos. Share links or embed as iframes

Viewing Virtual Reality Projects






Virtual Reality Design & Development MOOCs


  • Udacity – Intro to Virtual Reality
    by Google Cardboard
    Start anytime. Capstone project involves building a 3D VR project using Unity (free)

Free Trial


Virtual Reality Web Standards

  • WebGL
    Displays 2D and 3D HTML5/Javascript content
  • WebVR   
    Works with WebGL to display Virtual Reality content