ABINGTON, Pa. — Penn State Abington students and faculty are integrating virtual reality (VR) into their courses this year.
Richard Lang, an assistant teaching professor of information technology, encouraged his students to not only give the headsets a test run but also to consider how VR could disrupt companies’ operations. Before the class, students created mock businesses in a variety of industries, including a drone delivery service and a self-driving car manufacturer.
“Virtual reality is just getting started,” Lang said. “Apple, Meta, even Microsoft is working on VR tech, and each one will improve on other designs. That’s just how it works. So, consider the social and ethical implications. What’s the impact on your company’s workforce? Think of all the ways this tech could impact the companies you created.”
Abington’s Online and Information Technology unit invested in enough VR headsets to allow an entire class to use them at one time, which is a first among the Commonwealth Campuses. Space in the Athletics Building has been set aside so that classes can have room to spread out and explore the technology. Students can also check out VR headsets from the campus library.
“As we were thinking about how our technology investments could best support equity and access for our students, the focus was on ensuring they were adequately prepared for 21st-century workplaces with 21st-century skills. Investing in a class set of VR headsets allows for experiences that enable students to adeptly navigate innovative technology and develop the collaborative problem-solving and analytical skills to leverage the technology in a variety of industries and contexts,” said Lindsay Wood, the manager of instructional design who oversees the VR program and supports faculty in designing and implementing lessons to integrate the devices.
As we were thinking about how our technology investments could best support equity and access for our students, the focus was on ensuring they were adequately prepared for 21st-century workplaces with 21st-century skills.
—Lindsay Wood , Manager of instructional design
Students enjoyed the experience.
“I’ve never used one before, and it was great,” said Montana Milward, a junior on Abington’s baseball team who found a sports program among the apps offered by the headsets. After throwing baseballs for a bit, he said it was pretty accurate.
“There’s the commercial where guys are getting batting practice virtually, and I think that’d be great to have access to, especially for the other athletes,” he said.
Deon Cryor, a senior, said he enjoyed a lesson outside of the classroom. His group thought they could use VR tech to see how the delivery drones in their fictitious company deal with rain and storms without risking those drones.
“I could still hear the teacher, and he could still talk to us. Maybe someday teachers could see what the students are doing on monitors and maybe you could teach a whole class this way,” he said.
Students in kinesiology will soon be integrating the headsets into a unit on technology and movement, and there are many more creative lessons planned along the way.
About Penn State Abington
Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,000 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 24 majors, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.