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RCTC to begin using virtual reality technology in the classroom

RCTC to begin using virtual reality technology in the classroom

In recent years, virtual reality (VR) technology has primarily been associated with gaming and entertainment. But as the technology progresses and prices drop, opportunities are beginning to emerge in other areas — such as health care, commerce and education.

On Tuesday, Rochester Community and Technical College announced that thanks to a recent grant, it will begin developing a virtual reality lab on its campus. The school was awarded the $22,700 grant through a "Shark Tank"-like competition at the Minnesota State Educational Innovations conference.

Guy Hamernik works in Educational Technology at RCTC and was part of the group that submitted a proposal for the VR lab. After watching the technology evolve over the past year, he believes VR has the potential to make an impact in the classroom. 

"Of course, VR gaming is becoming a huge industry just like the Xbox and PlayStation, but in its wake comes a host of educational applications," said Hamernik. "This type of learning is coming. I am glad RCTC will be leading the way."

The team is looking to start incorporating VR into coursework in geology, astronomy, and anatomy and physiology — then potentially expanding its use into additional courses as new software becomes available. 

According to the college, the first steps of bringing VR into the classroom will begin in August. Already, faculty members are starting to brainstorm the best ways to use the technology.

"I have looked into what it would take to get cadavers in here to do human dissection, and it's just too expensive," said Randy Renken, a biology instructor at RCTC. “This [system] will allow my students to do almost the exact same thing at a fraction of the cost."

Cover photo: Pixabay

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