This fall, a virtual reality campus will welcome students from around the world. Fisk University, a top ranked HBCU, is partnering with some heavy hitters in tech to combine the in-person classroom experience with 5G-powered VR technology.
A big part of this story concerns access. Tuition at in-person colleges and universities is rising -- the University of California system, where I attended school, just voted to raise tuition yet again. At the same time, competition for seats is rampant.
Virtual campuses may be an answer to both problems -- but only if the scheme proves capable of offering a valuable education.
"The rise of virtual reality is redefining the classroom," said Steve Grubbs, CEO, VictoryXR. "Remote learning is broken and VR campuses enable professors and students to again come together to teach, learn and solve problems."
I recently covered the efforts of a 3D haptics company, FundamentalVR, to use immersive reality to do away with cadavers in medical training. That trend toward mixed reality in hands on education is ballooning. In addition to offerings in social sciences, Fisk will host a cadaver lab for pre-med and biology-related majors.
"We're combining the best aspects of virtual and in-person learning, and this is the future of education," said Dr. Vann Newkirk, President, Fisk University. "Fisk University is emerging as a tech leader among colleges, and our effort to bring a virtual reality cadaver lab to campus exemplifies our commitment to provide students with a state-of-the-art education."
Students will be able to dissect virtual cadavers and remove organs and tissue to better understand how they work in the body.
"With this cadaver lab, our pre-med students will no longer need to rely on other universities for advanced anatomy and biology classes," said Dr. Shirley Brown, Dean of Fisk University. "Virtual reality technology takes our university to a level equal to the most advanced schools in the country."
VR history courses will allow students to visit locations virtually, potentially offering new perspectives on history normally learned in a book and pointing to one potential advantage of virtual reality education over the in-person experience.
Of course the proof will be in the pudding. VR has been a technology largely defined by hype and over promise. When it comes to education, the stakes are high to get it right and learn on the fly.