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Teaching and Learning with 3D Content

Finding, using, and generating new dimensions of content for teaching.

What is 3D Content?

3D data and technologies approximates direct access to primary source material — the things themselves — rather than the textual observations or interpretations that make up traditional scholarly material, like books and journal articles. All real-world objects are candidates for digital reproduction and curricular integration.

Will 3D Content work in Your Course?

Academic fields of study that engage with artifacts, specimens, and anatomical structures can benefit from 3D content. 3D models also offer new ways to engage with materials—using features like cutaway visualization, surface curvature measurement, and multispectral analysis.

For example:

  • Biology students might view a digital 3D model of a cell, rather than a drawing or description.
  • Art history classes could examine a 3D sculpture virtually, instead of traveling to a museum.
  • 3D makes it possible to walk through historical architecture at human scale, as Harvard undergraduates did in the Spring 2020 semester.

Course Content Comes Alive

  • 3D objects can be accessed online, so students can casually engage with course material on their own time or in small groups.
  • Course content can be shared remotely, and students can use 3D content on desktop, on their phone, or even on a virtual reality headset.
  • Instructors can even embed interactive 3D objects in Canvas, where model annotations can be deployed as an interactive assessment.
A chemistry class uses virtual reality technology.

Currently Available Content

Large-scale 3D scan of Widener Library Explore Widener

3D Scanning and Consultation

Thinking about using 3D objects in your classes? For the Fall 2020 semester, we are experimenting with 3D scanning as a service, and your suggestions for potential projects is welcome.

For Faculty and Teaching Fellows

Using industry-standard scanning techniques, our team can rapidly create interactive digital surrogates of artifacts and specimens held in our collections. In addition to scanning new items, we can help you integrate existing 3D content within your course. 

There’s no limit to what can be produced using contemporary scanning techniques, and objects ranging from the very small to entire buildings can be digitized and integrated within a course syllabus.

Book a Consultation Now


A man holds a scanner near a model of the Globe Theater
Scanning a replica Globe Theatre for use in class.

Learn More About Teaching with 3D Content

Interested in diving deeper into the world of scholarly 3D? Consider joining the Harvard Library XR group. Each Friday at 11 a.m. Eastern time, we host a basic orientation and “office hours” experience in our virtual meeting space.