Drexel Introduces Repository of Virtual Reality Content to Enhance Online Education
New digital enhancements will take online education to new and far more expansive heights at Drexel University. VRtifacts+, a first of its kind repository created by Drexel University Online, will empower faculty and instructional designers to seamlessly incorporate 250,000 augmented, virtual, and mixed reality learning objects across a wealth of disciplines into the University's online coursework. Students will be able to access and explore the virtual objects on any device, from smartphones and laptops to VR glasses and trackpads.
The repository will be available to faculty through Drexel's Blackboard interface and includes 3-D objects and 360-degree panoramas in addition to virtual and mixed reality images. Instructors can search for terms like "heart diagram" and download the images they want to use in their courses.
"Given the repository's size and scope, we will have the capacity to develop and pilot ever more powerful approaches for delivering Drexel's state-of-the-art curriculum within its Blackboard Learn platform," said Stephanie Sutcliff, director of Learning Technology.
Drexel knows how difficult it is for busy faculty to keep up with constantly evolving digital technologies. The University has spent over two years researching "pockets of innovation" in technology-enhanced education worldwide, which has produced more than 100 case studies. In conducting this research, University leaders began brainstorming ideas around further capitalizing on its findings and came up with the VRtifacts+ repository.
Students are becoming quite adept at using a wide range of digital tools to connect, collaborate, and construct knowledge on their own – which is why they have come to expect the same flexibility and sophistication in their academic settings. Knowing how other institutions are effectively using "reality" technologies, the team began to see where Drexel might expand upon that success by creating an easily searchable repository of robust AVR learning objects.
To accomplish this goal, Drexel joined forces with 3Dream Studios and mapped out a multi-year development project. In addition to the repository, this project will eventually leverage such other technologies as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and blockchain to fully enhance the virtual learning experience at Drexel. This innovative initiative will add tremendous value to the academic investment for online students of all ages, abilities, and learning preferences, an aspiration shared by faculty members as well.
"Drexel has long been a leader in innovation and technology in the online arena working to deliver high-quality educational content," said Karyn Holt, PhD, former director of Online Quality at the College of Nursing and Health Professions. "VRtifacts+ will push our virtual walls even further, offering expanded experiential opportunities for learning. Humans learn through experiences. From that perspective, it is truly a strategic investment in our University's future, as online and blended education continues to build."