One of the biggest challenges facing students of classical languages and ancient cultures is imagining what life was like in ancient cities. That's changing, though, with the addition of modern technology to the classics classroom. Students in Professor Carl Rubino's classes use an interactive Web site called VRoma to take virtual tours of Rome, learning the layout and architecture of the great city and adding to their knowledge of ancient cultures and civilizations.
"I learn so much faster when I can explore on my own," says Jennifer Ann Colgan '01, "and VRoma is an open environment that lets me wander around at will, learning at my own speed." VRoma allows users to navigate through Rome starting with an aerial view and then navigating by compass points once they're at street level. Faculty members maintain information about different areas and buildings of the online city so that each can add his or her expertise. "It's really helpful to be able to go into VRoma and see the places that we've been reading about," says Colgan.
In addition to exploring the city, students read online translations and synopses of classical literature, interact with web "robots" (Web-based computer programs that can "converse" with visitors in either Latin or English), and discuss topics of study with students and faculty who are online at the same time. "VRoma emphasizes collaboration," says Rubino, a Hamilton professor since 1989 and a member of the core faculty of the VRoma project, "and our students can interact with a global community of classics scholars- some as far away as Australia-to get a broader perspective on their studies."
"I just like the fact that I can go to the Web and talk with people at any time of day about the stuff we're studying," says Jennifer. "I have access to so many more resources than I ever thought I would, and I can get it all on the Web ...."