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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

VR classroom will be introduced

NE+media+services+coordinator+Cedric+Hights+demonstrates+the+moveable%2C+interactive+board+that+displays+projected+images+that+instructors+can+mark+up+using+special+tools+to+make+classes+more+interactive.
NE media services coordinator Cedric Hights demonstrates the moveable, interactive board that displays projected images that instructors can mark up using special tools to make classes more interactive. Photo by Peter Matthews/The Collegian

By Kathryn Kelman/ne news editor

A NE Campus classroom is home to a new kind of experiential classroom.

Experiential classrooms allow faculty and staff to sample, test and learn how to manage new classroom products, like new technology, dry-erase wall materials and moveable furniture, to select the best, most cost-effective products before introducing them to multiple classrooms across the district.

While all five TCC campuses have an experiential classroom, NTAB 2203 will, in a couple of months, be the first to introduce virtual reality software to the classroom environment. That is if everything goes to according to plan, NE professional development chair Caroline Hamilton said.

“When fully equipped, the intent is for the room to contain virtual reality software allowing students and/or faculty and staff to be fully immersed within the content,” she said.

Hamilton, a neuroscientist by training, seeks strategies that can help increase student success and has found research that supports the idea that creating a 3-D environment for learning helps boost retention of the information and speeds up acquisition of the content, she said.

The technology hub for the experiential classrooms allows instructors to control the various screens and displays. Photo by Peter Matthews/The Collegian

“If you consider faculty and staff as students, along with our students, you’re creating an environment that allows for everyone to learn the information much more fully and much quicker than through traditional methods,” she said.

Last spring, Hamilton, NE president Allen Goben, media services director David Mead and NE media services coordinator Cedric Hights began pursuing the concept of using virtual reality in a classroom, she said.

After several meetings to discuss the vision for the classroom, Mead and Hamilton visited EON Reality in Duncanville. EON Reality has virtual reality classes and a large virtual reality studio, Mead said.

“We went out there to see what they had and how we could adapt what they have into what we want to do,” he said.

The equipment EON Reality uses is expensive, but the budget for the experiential classroom wasn’t unlimited, he said.

“So what Cedric and I had to look at was, ‘OK, what can we find that’ll be just as effective but more cost-effective?’” Mead said.

Despite not being finished yet, the experiential classroom is functional and already has classes being taught in it with instructors implementing the new technology and teaching tools the classroom has available, Hights said.

“It’s working, but we’re still fine-tuning some things,” he said. “Like, we’ve got some parts that are still coming in.”

Currently, the experiential classroom has three projectors with 3-D capability attached to the ceiling, a fourth projector attached to a moveable, interactive board, three or four moveable and collaborative TV stations, glass boards, a wireless mouse and keyboard, moveable furniture and a touch panel, where all of the technology in the room has been integrated for easier use and control, Hights said.

“All in the floor are connections for internet and power and all along the walls, so there’s a lot of flexibility, and that’s what a lot of classrooms don’t have,” Mead said.

That flexibility also allows for more collaboration between students, he said.

“It seems like particularly for students today, they like to collaborate more with other people,” he said.

Hamilton is excited about the space.

The moveable, interactive board can be used as a tabletop display for interactive group assignments. Photo by Peter Matthews/The Collegian

“I would love to see this become our new framework for how classes are designed in the future,” she said.

“It’s not necessarily that students need to know exactly how to use existing technology, but that they can adapt and maybe meet new challenges that could face them 10 or 15 years down the line,” she said.

To do that, academicians have to create more forward-thinking classroom environments, and that starts with educating the instructors, she said.

“Our trainers have to be more comfortable in a very fluid, adaptive environment so that they can then create that same environment for their own students,” Hamilton said.

The experiential classroom will be a multidisciplinary space, and faculty members from different disciplines will be selected at the administrative level to teach in the room. Whether they will teach in there for a semester or for the full academic year has not been determined yet, Hamilton said.

Hamilton does not know if the classes being taught in the room next semester will have a disclaimer listed with them in WebAdvisor.

“The only way I know of is if they see that room number on there,” she said.

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