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LACC Partners with VR and AR Giant to Shape New Normal

Last updated on November 26, 2020

PARTNERSHIP OPENS NEW DOORS TO VIRTUAL REALITY COURSES

By Diego Chavez-Cadena

(LOS ANGELES, Calif.) — EON Reality and L.A. City College have formed a partnership worth $3 million to bring virtual and augmented reality classes to students in a move that could make the campus a leader in VR education in North America.

Schools struggle to implement online education to keep students safe and healthy in response to the pandemic. As a result, virtual reality and augmented reality technology and software will play a more important role in online education.

Nursing students will be the first to plunge into a pilot program of VR courses this fall at City College.

This new VR strategy could supplement or replace physical classrooms and lab hours. An esports laboratory and learning center will also be established.

The partnership was forged with the Irvine, CA-based tech firm, which develops augmented reality software, to supplement classroom instruction this year. EON

Reality works with Boeing, Microsoft, Lexus, Cornell University and has been growing at a rapid pace during the pandemic.

The $72 billion augmented reality market is trying to make its way into colleges all over the world. Students can learn with innovative scientists to pave the way into uncharted territories.

As part of the $3 million program, two faculty members will collaborate with the visual arts program to immerse students in the multibillion dollar virtual reality industry.

LACC President Mary Gallagher says she plans on making the software available to more faculty and students over time, including people with disabilities. She says she would require approval before expanding the program into the 135,000-student Los Angeles City College District.

“I hope we can build out a center on campus that’s an actual augmented virtual reality center,” Gallagher said. “And we would be creating a lot of content that would go worldwide. And yes we would get a licensing agreement … And faculty at that point would be paid for the content that they build.”

EON Reality is attempting to bridge the gap between educators and new technology with the goal of improving distance learning, Gallagher told the Collegian. Administrators will use virtual reality as one of many distance-learning tools to put educators and students in the same room with digital representations of themselves. Teachers may ‘teleport’ with students during lessons.

The latest amendments to the LACC Faculty Handbook address distance learning. Distance learn- ing is a model of interaction that uses technology to supplement classroom instruction, the handbook says.

Last year, EON Reality launched an augmented virtual reality teaching application to design content for digital lesson plans. The app allows anyone without coding knowledge to use this learning technique.

Gallagher says she expects the program to help students and faculty use interactive virtual reality lessons in online classrooms and when students return to campus.

A 2020 study by Xiaochun Jiang the Wannan Medical College in Wuhu, China, found virtual reality may improve learning outcomes.

“There is still a long way to go to make it widely accepted by medical education,” Jiang said. “That includes the development and innovation of software and hardware, and the strengthening of the great relationship with clinical practice.”

The study finds the most significant challenges for medical students who study anatomy to be the understanding of how different body systems fit together in 3D. The study suggests virtual reality can solve the problem.

“We have a first-hand opportunity to continue innovating and setting the tone through the Los Angeles education ecosystem,” Gallagher said.

EON Reality has also partnered with Eastern Iowa Community Colleges, which received $748,218 to develop a water, wastewater, agriculture technology and conservation curriculum in July, 2017. The project employed a Leap Motion controller and specially adapted Oculus Rift headsets as additional tools to help master the experience.

Psychology professor David Sedghi says there’s a symbiotic relationship between technology and the learning process in education.

“I mean, can you imagine what we would do in a pandemic without zoom conferences? … This technology has been like a lifesaver,” Sedghi said. “It would be a disservice to the students not having this kind of technology.”

Angela Johnson and James Duffy V. contributed to this report.

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