University of Maryland GC Planning AR/VR for Online Courses

The University of Maryland’s Online Global Campus (UMGC) has partnered with electronics technology company VictoryXR to embrace virtual and augmented reality technology to improve course instruction in the fall, according to a report. recent announcement.

According to a press release, the university will join nine other schools in creating “digital twin campuses” for students in synchronous and asynchronous classes delivered online or in person. The effort was launched with the help of tech giant Meta, which recently announced plans to provide AR/VR headsets, among other course development resources.

UMGC officials said their adoption of AR/VR technology will help create a “metacampus,” which could increase participation in virtual classes by giving students a digital space in which to work closely with instructors and among themselves, as they would in anyone.

Other schools working with VictoryXR to create “metaversities” include Morehouse College, University of Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, Dakota State University of South, West Virginia University and Southwestern Oregon Community College, according to the announcement.

According to UMGC Information Technology Department Chairman Daniel Mintz, the university now offers courses that teach students how to develop augmented and virtual reality content. While these courses have some familiarity with AR/VR tools, others will start experimenting with them for the first time.

“This pilot program in the fall is a one-year project, or “test”, to explore how we want to use it [elsewhere],” he said Government technology. “Until we start the pilot in the fall, the development courses are the only ones with immersive content.”

Mintz said a major goal will be to give online students learning experiences that are as “hands-on” as possible, noting that asynchronous online learning tends to be less robust compared to active engagement. with an instructor.

“The majority of our classes are online, and we don’t have a campus or in-person classes in the country,” he said of UMGC. “We want to use this immersive technology not just in terms of content, but to change the relationship between faculty member and student online.”

“We want to be able to offer students the ability to be purely online, and if they want to have synchronous contact with professors using this immersive technology, they can do that,” he continued. . “We want to give them options.”

Mintz said much of the asynchronous content offered to remote students in the higher education landscape, such as recorded lectures, tends to make learning much more “static” compared to in-person learning. Noting possible uses, he said, the university plans to use the technology next fall or spring for activities where active student engagement would be most needed — such as a dissection lesson in a biology course, among others.

“There is content that can best be taught in an immersive environment,” he said. “For [another] one of the pilots, we have criminal justice courts, and we want to create an immersive environment where instead of just playing a scene, they’ll actually be in a scene reviewing the evidence… It’s a lot more powerful to be out there and do that rather than just reading about it.

According to the press release, VictoryXR plans to announce more “metaversity” partnerships in May as schools look to adopt new ed-tech tools to increase student engagement.

“This is an opportunity to be a leader and pioneer in leveraging the metaverse, which will represent a sea change in online education and the end-to-end learner experience,” said Doug Harrison, Vice President and Dean of the School of Cybersecurity and Information Technology at UMGC. “Our partnership with VictoryXR represents another step towards creating broader access to higher education and strengthening connections between students, faculty and other stakeholders, including success coaches, advisors, student services representatives and other external academic and business partners.”

Brandon Paykamian is a writer for Government Technology. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and several years of experience as a multimedia journalist, focusing primarily on public education and higher education.

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