University of Maryland GC Planning AR/VR for Online Courses

The online University of Maryland Global Campus (UMGC) has partnered with ed-tech company VictoryXR to introduce virtual and augmented reality technology to improve teaching in fall courses, according to a recent release Announcement.

according to a press releasethe university will join nine other schools to create “digital twin campuses” for students in synchronous and asynchronous courses 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 and other course development resources.

UMGC officials said their adoption of AR/VR technology will work towards creating a “metacampus” that could increase participation in virtual classes by providing students with a digital space where they can work closely with teachers and teachers can work together as they would in person.

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

The university now offers courses that teach students how to develop augmented and virtual reality content, according to UMGC Information Technology Department Chair Daniel Mintz. While these courses are familiar with AR/VR tools, others will be experimenting with them for the first time.

“This fall pilot is a year-long project or ‘test’ to see how we plan to use it [elsewhere],” he said government technology. “Until we launch the pilot in the fall, the development courses will be the only ones that have immersive content.”

Mintz said one of the main goals will be to provide online students with learning experiences that are as “hands-on” as possible, noting that asynchronous online learning tends to be less robust compared to active engagement with a teacher.

“The majority of our courses are online, and we don’t have a campus or face-to-face classes domestically,” he said of UMGC. “We want to not only use this immersive technology for content, but also to transform the relationship between faculty member and online student.”

“We want to offer students the opportunity to be exclusively online, and if they wish to have synchronous contact with faculty using this immersive technology, they can do so,” he continued. “We want to give them options.”

Mintz said most 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. Citing potential uses, the university plans to use the technology next fall or spring for activities where active student engagement is most needed — such as a dissection lesson in a biology class, among others.

“There is content that can be conveyed better in an immersive environment,” he said. “For [another] One of the pilots, we have criminal justice courses, and we want to create an immersive environment where instead of just reading about a scene, they’re going to actually be in a scene looking at the evidence… It’s a lot more powerful to be there to be and do than just read about it.”

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

“This is an opportunity to be a leading and early pioneer in harnessing the metaverse, which will represent a radical paradigm shift in online education and the end-to-end learning 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 in creating broader access to higher education and strengthening the connection between students, faculty and other stakeholders, including success coaches, advisors, student union representatives and other external academic and business partners.”

Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter with a focus on public education and higher education.

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