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Central Washington University

CWU introduces new teaching technology to Ellensburg students

Virtual Friday” is taking place weekly at CWU. It is a time when students get to have hands-on experience with some new technologies being showcased at the university.  

Overall, it falls into two related, yet distinct, categories: virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR immerses people within alternate realms, for which they use handheld remote controls to navigate, while AR introduces ancillary, illusory images within a user’s existing field-of-view and perceptions.

“If you look at the private-sector landscape today, VR and AR are where they are going,” said Andreas Bohman, CWU’s chief information officer. “So, these emerging technologies will become integral and critical in higher education. We are keen on introducing them into the classroom here. Teaching and learning are what we do. Embracing these new technologies will have significant beneficial impacts on the success of our students.”

VR and AR are already beginning to show up within certain university academic departments, such as geology, which has unveiled and is now incorporating a technologically advanced “sandbox” into the curriculum.

“It is, basically, a computer with a projector and a three-dimensional (3D) sensor,” said Blake Cardoza, a CWU graduate who now serves as a university information technology specialist.  “Sand is used as a medium in order to display a 3D, topographical, map. You can rearrange the sand as a way to change the elevation and terrain.”  

However, since the proliferation of such technology is not yet commonplace, the university’s Student Technology Fee committee came up with the concept and provided funding for Virtual Friday, in conjunction with CWU’s Academic Technologies and Media Services

“For students, who may not have exposure to it, this is a great way for them to get familiar and comfortable with this new technology,” Bohman added.

Genevieve Fjellstad is among the students who have participated in and, as a CWU Computer Support Services student technician, helped demonstrate at Virtual Friday.

“When you’re in it, you’re in a whole other world,” Fjellstad explained. In terms of AR, she added, “You’re not tethered to a PC [personal computer], so, with the glasses on, you can interact with your 3D world as well as see and connect with who is [really] around you. I think it would be amazing if it was applied in the classroom.” 

While a powerful personal computer is now required for VR systems, that provision is quickly ending. Standalone systems, requiring just headgear and glasses, will be the norm in the next, soon to be released, generation of products.

While geared specifically for students, university faculty and staff interested in developing effective uses for the new technology across campus, have also participated in Virtual Friday. The weekly events take place from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m., in CWU’s Bouillon Hall recording studio.

“Since it is mobile, we will also take this technology to events, like orientation,” Bohman pointed out. “Whenever and wherever students and parents come together on campus, we want to introduce them to it and show them what we can do here.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487, Robert.Lowery@cwu.edu

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

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