Summer 2023 - IAT 481 D100

Special Topics in Interactive Arts and Technology (Science) (3)

Semester in Alternate Realities

Class Number: 4901

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Tu, We, Th, Fr 2:30 PM – 4:20 PM
    SRYC 3050, Surrey

  • Prerequisites:

    Completion of 60 units.



Specific details of courses to be offered will be published prior to enrollment each term. This course can be repeated for credit up to a maximum of three times, if topic studied is different. Variable units: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.


Semester in Alternate Realities (SIAR) pro­poses a unique edu­ca­tional expe­ri­ence meant to inspire inter­dis­ci­pli­nary teams to solve a real-world prob­lem explor­ing Virtual real­ity (VR) and hybrid VR phys­i­cal instal­la­tions. In this project-based course, par­tic­i­pants will be chal­lenged to develop solu­tions using tech­nolo­gies such as VR (e.g., Meta Quest head-mounted dis­plays) and immer­sive multi-modal media instal­la­tions. In addi­tion to focus­ing on the co-construction of dig­i­tal pro­to­types afford­ing mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences in “alter­nate real­i­ties”, our objec­tive is to stim­u­late doc­u­mented reflec­tion and dis­cus­sion through­out the process. Participants can expect to work collaboratively in and across teams, and be pro­vided time and resources to learn new tech­niques and approaches, soft– and hard skills, and processes to con­duct user research.

Participants will get the oppor­tu­nity to reflect on future tech­nolo­gies and their poten­tial impact on the world, and improve their pre­sen­ta­tion skills and pub­licly show­case their projects (both in-person and online). To incor­po­rate diverse per­spec­tives, stu­dents from dif­fer­ent dis­ci­plines are invited to apply and, in their appli­ca­tion, argue how they could con­tribute to the course and the co-construction of team projects. Students will be asked to utilize alter­nate real­i­ties tech­niques and tech­nolo­gies, guid­ing the­o­ret­i­cal frame­works, and appro­pri­ate processes, project man­age­ment and col­lab­o­ra­tion approaches to iter­a­tively ideate, design, pro­to­type, and eval­u­ate an inter­ac­tive alter­nate real­i­ties expe­ri­ence that affords mean­ing­ful expe­ri­ences for the bet­ter­ment of human­ity and/or our planet.

Who is this course for?

Upper-level undergraduate students and graduate students with a keen interest in addressing real-world problems through designing alternate realities experiences. Students are expected to be fearless in their exploration, adoption and experimentation of immersive technologies, and open to and interested in exploring new ideas, concepts and perspectives in an interdisciplinary setting. Come prepared to work collaboratively with others. 

How to apply

To apply for this course, students must download and complete the application/project proposal form and submit the completed form to SIAT's advising team at

Further information

For more information, see, and the course website from the first offering of the Semester in Alternate Realities (SIAR) back in 2019, where it was offered as a 15-credit course - The 2023 offering of SIAR is inspired by and an evolution on this first course offering.


The course is intended to support students in gaining both practical experience with and a critical understanding in the context of the below 5 key learning objectives.

1) Theories & frameworks: Identify, rationalize, and interpret appropriate theory(s) and/or framework(s) including the type of medium/technology/approach that are most useful for addressing a given challenge in relation to a context, goal, and particular audience. 

2) User-centered design, research methods, and user testing: Integrate (and be able to justify and critique) appropriate project-aligned research and user testing processes in order to evaluate ideas and projects, uncover what has been done before, and contextualize one’s own projects

3) Human and Social Development: Utilize tools and techniques to create a supportive learning environment that fosters effective learning, growth, reflection, collaboration, and sense of community. More specifically, students (and teams) will be asked to support and help each other to learn better, provide useful feedback, improve projects, and create a supportive and inclusive community, show meaningful engagement and useful contribution to relevant course activities, and support each other and help everyone come together as a community and thrive. 

4) Effective communication: Demonstrate effective communication at all levels: interpersonal, team, community, and public. This includes giving and receiving respectful and constructive feedback; and utilizing feedback to improve product and processes, and effectively communicating in suitable forms/media, such as: project pitch presentations, creating a project website and ongoing project documentation in form of a design document of suitable format (similar to what you’d do for your portfolio), co-organize the final project showcase where you will present on and demonstrate your project, and creating a project video and poster. 

5) Technical proficiency and project management: “How”: Effectively manage a substantial time limited project from an idea’s conception through iteration cycles to completed artifact and/or research outcome



This course employs “ungrading” as the primary method of assessment, where you reflect on and demonstrate your own learning, progress, and accomplishments throughout the semester with respect to the above learning goals. This will be supported by self-reflection and feedback from peers and the instructional team. We will discuss what this is in our first week, but you can look it up here to find out more here: 

Note for graduate students

Graduate students will have additional requirements, and will need to write a scholarly paper (e.g., investigating their VR project/experience) and submit it by July 6th, and present it orally on July 10th (most likely in an in-person session).


The course is open to stu­dents with the nec­es­sary back­ground in VR, both for SIAT stu­dents and stu­dents from other depart­ments of SFU or other universities.



Relevant readings will be provided online as needed. Students will be able to borrow head-mounted displays from the SFU library, and use the VR-capable computers in the labs during class hours.


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at:

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating. Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the university community. Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the university. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the university.


Students with a faith background who may need accommodations during the semester are encouraged to assess their needs as soon as possible and review the Multifaith religious accommodations website. The page outlines ways they begin working toward an accommodation and ensure solutions can be reached in a timely fashion.