Embracing VR in the Covid-19 Era
The recent Covid-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes to the current model of education and forced most teaching institutions, educators and students to find alternative methods of instruction. To cushion the impact of the pandemic on education, companies offering technology-based learning solutions and institutions of higher education may find it beneficial to work together to maintain continuity of education between instructors and students. Institutions of higher education that have been pressured to navigate through uncertain terrain as they search for ways to deliver quality education both remotely and in line with its high price tag can work with technology-based companies such as virtual reality (VR) companies leveraging e-learning platforms to provide the same if not enhanced level of education to students. Medical Augmented Intelligence (MAI) is one such company that is well poised to offer effective VR training solutions to institutions of higher education, specifically to medical and nursing schools in need of alternative teaching methods. Along with providing a new and visually immersive way to learn anatomy and acupuncture, the company’s major software products, BodyMap and AcuMap, can be used in numerous scenarios to accommodate a wide range of learning environments and needs.
Distance or online learning has never been as necessary as it is now with the COVID-19 pandemic reshaping education globally. Institutions have scrambled to adapt and instructors are still in the midst of adjusting their approach to teaching and holding classes online. One institution that had a level of preparation in place pre-pandemic is Beijing University of Chinese Medicine (BUCM), which offered an option for distance learning even before it became necessary. By recording acupuncture content from MAI’s VR-based acupuncture training solution AcuMap and uploading the videos onto the school’s e-learning portal, BUCM provided students without access to campus facilities with equal learning opportunities and access to quality acupuncture content.
Students using the e-learning portal (pictured above) simply navigate to the video they wish to view and watch as instructors demonstrate how to identify and simulate needle insertion into high risk and dangerous acupoints. The 24 videos in BUCM’s e-learning portal are also featured as an e-learning course on thenational experimental e-learning platform which can be accessed by universities across China.
While online learning with prerecorded videos is one main avenue of teaching content, some learning needs are still better met through virtual classrooms where instructors and students engage with one another through an online shared space. In that scenario, instructors with the appropriate VR gear and a VR-ready laptop or computer can stream VR content for students to watch in real time through their computers and laptops.
Distance learning during the Covid-19 era may be an attractive or even necessary option for some, but when stepping foot on campus becomes a safe course of action again, the majority of students may still benefit most with live instruction in a campus environment. For those who do their best learning in a traditional lecture hall environment, incorporating e-learning in a classroom environment can maintain the level of engagement offered through an in-person classroom setting while also offering additional benefits such as increased interest from students and improved information retention. Instructors less keen to completely switch out traditional teaching methods with VR-based teaching solutions can benefit from projecting VR content directly onto projector screens. Wearing a VR headset connected to a VR-ready PC or laptop, the instructor can display the content of their virtual environment onto large projector screens for students to view in a more familiar 2D format.
SMALL CLASSES & WORKSHOPS
For those more eager to embrace the latest technology, the software can also be incorporated to the full extent in a small classroom environment for maximum engagement and interaction between instructors and students. With instructors and students each wearing VR headsets connected to VR-ready laptops or computers and by turning on the “multi-user” option, instructors can offer new ways to teach anatomy or acupuncture as students transport themselves into virtual environments and absorb information under the guidance of instructors in a more visually captivating way than could ever be offered through textbooks. In this scenario, dissection labs that traditionally have involved instructors teaching anatomy to students gathered around a cadaver can be conducted virtually, where students can observe instructors take apart anatomical structures from the virtual avatar in real time virtual reality.
VR LAB FOR SELF STUDY
To take the immersive learning experience one step further, students themselves can take full control of the virtual learning experience with the dedication of one VR-ready laptop or computer and headset plus controller unit per student in a VR lab. In this environment, students can delve deeper into anatomy topics at their own pace and have total freedom in interacting with the VR material. Students can even take the opportunity to quiz themselves with anatomy questions along various points of their learning process to assess their understanding of the material. This type of VR lab can be seen at Davao Medical School Foundation (DMSF) which uses MAI’s BodyMap software as part of its medical curriculum. In the photo below, medical students are seen with VR headsets and controllers learning anatomy in VR with BodyMap software.
Even as the pandemic eases and instructors and students return to campus, the demand for online learning and teaching through digital platforms is likely to stay. In such case, making arrangements to include VR-based learning into the curriculum earlier rather than later may prove to be a worthwhile investment.