YPSILANTI - Three Eastern Michigan University colleges are investigating the use of cutting edge virtual reality technology to modernize student’s learning.
The new virtual reality platforms allow students in the University’s College of Education to use the technology that professors say will one day allow teachers to revolutionize classrooms. Meanwhile, students in the University’s GameAbove College of Technology and Engineering are learning to use an essential engineering tool, while the platform is helping students in the College of Health and Human Services feel more present.
“By infusing virtual reality as a part of a classroom setting, it gives EMU faculty a crucial tool to engage students,” said EMU Teacher Education Department Professor Michael McVey.
“Virtual reality will certainly be a part of teaching the next generation of students,” McVey said. “The next steps will be adding new functions to the experience, in effect, creating augmented reality experiences in which students can gain greater depth of understanding of their virtual reality experiences.”
Frank J. Fedel, a professor in EMU’s Orthotics and Prosthetics program in the College of Health and Human Services, is particularly excited about virtual reality because it’s expanding what he thinks is possible. Fedel created a web-based virtual reality experience for potential and incoming students to use, so they can become familiar with his fabrication lab setting and equipment at any time.
Currently, Fedel is working on an interactive headset-based virtual reality experience that is immersive and allows students to interact with 3D models of orthotics and prosthetics devices, as well as anatomical structures while in a virtual lab environment.
“The usual limitations of space, pace, time, cost and safety can all be addressed to various degrees using virtual reality and it can enhance engagement with key material,” said Fedel. “It provides students with agency, so they are in control of how they invest their time interacting with the environment and can move at their own pace.”
Equipping EMU students with virtual reality also helps many students prepare for the modernized workplace. The Society of Automotive Engineers says 90 percent of future products will be designed and developed using virtual reality technology.
Hamza Al-Jundi, a part-time lecturer, said he used the virtual reality lab at GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology to design and implement a high-fidelity virtual reality manufacturing planning framework. He designed a multipurpose virtual reality simulation with full-scale immersive, interactive experience.
“The virtual reality simulation enables users to simulate the manufacturing system and use it for different purposes,” says Al-Jundi, who is finishing his doctorate this semester in technology at the GameAbove College of Engineering and Technology. His major is technology with a minor in engineering management.
“The virtual reality simulation was designed for enabling users to visualize, validate and verify manufacturing processes for the offered complex products by direct demonstration in a high fidelity virtual experience. Virtual reality simulation enables users to simulate the manufacturing system and use it for different purposes, such as manufacturing planning, research and development and training.”
McVey added: “As someone who prepares future teachers, I am trying to ensure that they are at the very least exposed to virtual reality as a tool to engage students in their classrooms.”
About Eastern Michigan University
Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves more than 16,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.