The University of Newcastle (UON) is looking to consolidate its early success with virtual and augmented reality teaching tools by embedding them into digital education programs across the university.
A new pilot program will be launched at the start of next year to gauge the interest and use cases for VR as a sustainable tool for increasing student engagement in different faculties.
The university is looking to use the Simulation Technology Evaluation Pilot (STEP) Program to get ahead of the digitisation curve that has resulted in an increasingly online tertiary education environment.
Two courses have already been delivered with the help of the UON IT Innovation Team, a dedicated group within the IT Services function looking to support researchers and students with project prototypes and proofs of concept.
So far the Faculty of Health and Medicine has been the most strident early adopter of VR and AR technologies, using dental procedures and neonatal resuscitation exercises simulated on Oculus headsets to safely introduce students to high-risk components of their courses.
Now the university is looking to flesh out the innovation program through STEP, and will soon invite staff to express their interest in participating in the pilot to design, develop and implement AR and VR within existing degree programs.
STEP will specifically consider how well the use of VR can be implemented, and what resources and infrastructure may be needed across the university’s campuses to ensure an effective use of the technology.
UON highlighted that VR could prove especially useful for teaching programs “too dangerous or too expensive to teach in the classroom in a highly scalable manner,” to address current challenges with transferring procedural knowledge to large numbers of students.