Page 25 - Campus Technology, May/June 2019
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Immersive technologies can help students understand theoretical concepts more easily, prepare them for careers through simulated experiences and keep them engaged in learning. By Dian Schaffhauser
Immersive reality is bumping us into the deep end, virtually speaking. Colleges and universities large and small are launching new labs and centers dedicated to research on the topics of augmented reality, virtual reality and 360-degree imaging. The first academic confer- ence held completely in virtual reality recently returned for its second year, hosted on Twitch by Lethbridge College in Alberta and Centennial College in Toronto. Majors in VR and AR have begun popping up in higher education across the United States, including programs at the Savan- nah School of Design (GA), Shenandoah Univer- sity (VA) and Drexel University Westphal (PA). Educause experts have most recently positioned the timing for broad adoption of these technolo- gies in education at the two-year to three-year horizon. And Gartner has predicted that by the year 2021, 60 percent of higher education insti- tutions in the United States will “intentionally” be using VR to create simulations and put students into immersive environments.
If you haven’t already acquired your own head- set or applied for a grant from your institution to test out AR or VR for instruction, it’s time. We’ve done a scan of some of the most interesting proj- ects currently taking place in American class- rooms to help you imagine the virtual possibilities.
1) Grasping Concepts
San Diego State University’s Instructional Tech- nology Services unit launched a Virtual Immer- sive Teaching and Learning (VITaL) initiative in 2017. Since then, dozens of faculty members have tested the use of AR, VR, mixed reality and 360-degree-video tools for use in numerous dis- ciplines. Instructors can check out gear to immerse their students in new learning environ- ments in their chosen spaces, or take over the VITaL Learning Research Studio to accommo- date up to 40 students at four different stations.
Among the many types of experimentation, Gur Windmiller, an instructor in the astronomy department, has found VR “a perfect fit” for teaching students about astronomy. Concepts that can be hard to understand with verbal explanations suddenly make sense when stu- dents experience them visually, he explained in a university article. “It’s a very visual subject,” he said. “You can create these sandbox worlds where students can just play around with astro- nomical objects and see what happens.”
2) Recreating Past Experiences for New Learners
The issues of truth and media manipulation brought students from Culture & Media, Jour- 25

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