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Associate Professor Erica Southgate

Associate Professor

School of Education

Virtual reality is here for good

I am an Associate Professor of Education at the University of Newcastle, Australia. I believe that everyone has the potential to succeed, and that digital technology can be used to level the playing field of privilege.

Currently I am using immersive virtual reality (VR) to create solutions to enduring educational and social problems. Playing and experimenting with technology can build a strong skill and mind set and every student, regardless of their economic situation, should have access to amazing technology for learning.


I am interested in how curriculum and pedagogy can be tailored to immersive VR, and seek to explore the opportunities and challenges of deploying this technology in low-income school communities. I am lead researcher on the VR School Research Project, a collaboration with Callaghan College school community. This is a participatory research project where STEM teachers, as co-researchers, investigate what happens when immersive VR is introduced into classrooms for learning.

I have produced ethical guidelines and health and safety resources for teachers so that immersive VR can be used for good in schools.


My enduring commitment to equity in education was acknowledged when I was appointed to the position of 2016 Equity Fellow by the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education. During this national Fellowship I undertook two major pieces of research. The first was a report on Fair Connection to Professional Careers including STEM related degrees for young people from lower socioeconomic, rural and Indigenous backgrounds. I also produced Immersed in the Future: A Roadmap of Existing and Emerging Technologies for Career Exploration, a go-to primer for teachers to understand the potential of new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality for authentic learning and careers counselling.


My creative collaboration with Dr Shamus Smith has led to the development of award winning computer games designed to improve the literacy of students of all ages. These games, available for free download from the App and GooglePlay stores, are Sentence Hero and Apostrophe Power. In addition, Shamus and I developed the Uni Tune In app, a great resource for students starting university. This app comprises short, sharp video-torials for study skills and academic literacy.  In 2017, Shamus and I won the prestigious ASCILITE 2017 Innovation Award for our suite of literacy apps and serious computer games.


I think my openness and love of working with people from different backgrounds comes from a non-traditional academic trajectory and varied employment history. I have  worked as a consultant, in local government and as a Research Fellow at the National Centre in HIV Social Research (UNSW) where I conducted inquiry with NGOs and marginalised people on how health empowerment. I think that learning is a two-way street. Often targeted by public health campaigns and policy makers, I found that marginalised communities and people experiencing disadvantage and stigma often have their own practical and innovative methods of self-care, sharing knowledge and education. If we go into communities with humility we can hear solutions. This ethos informs both my teaching and my research.

I respect people from different disciplines, professional and community backgrounds, and walks of life. It is only through creatively combining their perspectives with existing evidence that we can develop new and powerful solutions to enduring social and educational problems.

If you want true innovation, then you need to cultivate a constant curiosity and be genuinely committed to working with others. Like to know more? Visit my Digital Identity, Curation & Education (DICE) research network or my blog on EdTech Research and Human Virtuality.

Virtual reality is here for good

Dr Erica Southgate explores the factors that create disadvantage in higher education and creates real world solutions to address them.

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Literacy Apps Win Innovation Award

January 8, 2018

Literacy apps win 2017 ASCILITE Innovation Award

Literacy Apps Earn Nomination for Top Award

June 24, 2016

Literacy apps earn nomination for top award in the Australia and New Zealand Internet Awards (ANZIAs).

Best footprint forward

January 22, 2015

UON research to enhance the safe and effective use of the internet for the next generation.

Equity in higher education grant success

April 23, 2014

University of Newcastle researchers win grants to study student equity in Higher Education

Associate Professor Erica Southgate


Associate Professor
School of Education
School of Education
Faculty of Education and Arts

Contact Details

Phone (02) 4921 6325
Fax (02) 4921 7887


Room HC52
Building Hunter Building
Location Callaghan
University Drive
Callaghan, NSW 2308