Yavapai College is bringing new dimensions of learning to its students through virtual reality instruction with equipment and software provided through a grant from Meta, the parent company of Facebook.
YC instructors are beginning to integrate $20,000 worth of VR headsets and handheld controllers into lesson plans for subjects ranging from health care to wine-making to supplement, not displace, other teaching methods, says Robyn Burke, special projects manager for the college.
“We aren’t putting students in virtual reality and leaving them there. Most instructors are using it for 20 minutes three times per semester,” she says.
Dr. Brandelyn Andres’ Art 201 class of 10 students became the first to dive into an immersive learning environment when students took a “field trip” in September to a virtual museum she created to teach students to look for compositional principles that make up a piece of art, such as line, shape and color.
She selected an art gallery template in the VictoryXR app and added works that embodied these principles, then created virtual “Post-it” notes for students to flag what they found in each virtual painting.
“It was nice because it was virtual, so I could go in and mark on the artwork and indicate where they’re seeing the certain compositional principles, which I’m not able to do to that extent when I’m teaching,” Andres says.
Her students responded well and she says she hopes to next create a 3D video tour of the Colosseum in Rome, so students can experience the actual size and scale of the ancient arena.
Burke says VR applications on the YC campus have been multiplying ever since. Current uses and plans include instruction on hand-washing and handling personal protective equipment for health care students, a sculpture lesson and scanning wine barrels and other objects from the viticulture program at the Verde Valley campus.
Prospective students already are putting on headsets for a five-minute glimpse into responding to car crashes, fighting fires and other potential future career scenarios at YC outreach events.
“It energizes and inspires them and shows students what’s possible for them,” Burke says.