ST. CLOUD (WJON News) - St. Cloud State University has been awarded a $1.88 million grant to bring virtual reality technology and technical education closer together.

The Resource Collaborative for Immersive Technologies (RECITE) Initiative from the National Science Foundation hopes to help develop virtual and augmented reality programs designed to aid in technical education.

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Faculty work the bugs out of a virtual reality program at SCSU's Visualization Lab. Submitted Photo.
Faculty work the bugs out of a virtual reality program at SCSU's Visualization Lab. Submitted Photo.
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Officials say a gap has been identified in the research and application of Extended Reality technologies, and their use in technical education. RECITE hopes to expedite the implementation of Extended Reality technology in technical and community colleges nationwide.

Through the SCSU Visualization Laboratory, a cross-disciplinary center for virtual reality technology on campus, staff and students will research the current use of VR in classrooms, develop VR training programs, and create a VR repository and website to support technical education programs.

A look inside a virtual reality program designed at SCSU to help children understand how computers work. Submitted Photo.
A look inside a virtual reality program designed at SCSU to help children understand how computers work. Submitted Photo.
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Mark Gill is a software developer at SCSU, and serves as the Technical Director of the Visualization Lab. He says adding virtual reality to the classroom has proven results.

There's a mountain of research that says there's a fundamental difference between how memories are stored, whether that is a experiential memory, or what they call an episodic memory. So an experience in experiential memory involves your entire environment, everything around you - the ambiance of the setting. And episodic memory is I'm sitting in a space, and I'm watching something on the screen. If I don't have that competition between the environment and the information, if the environment is part of the information, the information as part of the environment, then the learning experience is improved.

Alan Srock is an Associate Professor in Meteorology and Atmospheric sciences. He says he was drawn to the project due to limitations in his own classrooms.

I’ll take it from a student perspective. In the meteorology world, everything is in three dimensions. Every cloud outside, the whole atmosphere, is three dimensions. And, up until recently, everything we've looked at was on a screen or a map. Trying to understand the 3d world in two dimensions is rather difficult.

In an interview with WJON news, Srock and Gill imagine RECITE as an online library of educational software. For example, a developer at Sommerset Community College has developed a virtual reality simulator on how to light a cutting torch. Srock says the program is a safer, and more efficient, use of time.

If you have students who don't know what they're doing, that's a lot of fire if you do it wrong. So doing some of the training in virtual reality can save time and they can learn a lot of the basics of how it works, which makes the time in the classroom when they actually go to do it a lot easier because they've done something similar.

For more information on RECITE, click here.

 

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