1994 VR Conference Proceedings

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The Joys and Pitfalls of Creating a Grant Regarding Virtual Reality

By: Terry W. Miller, Ph.D., R.N. and
Gordon U. Burton, Ph.D., O.T.R.
San Jose State University
College of Applied Sciences and Arts
One Washington Square
San Jose, CA 95192-0049


Our endeavor begins on May 22, 1992, when San Jose State University faculty from several Departments in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts toured a major computer manufacturer in the Bay area. This limited exposure to new technology had two interrelated outcomes. Faculty realized the inadequacy of their present use of technology in the learning process. They envisioned how to make the classroom a more dynamic, effective learning environment and reach students restricted by traditional teaching methods. The faculty's enthusiasm resulted in several proposals to the computer company.

A year later on April 28, 1993 the Occupational Therapy Department and two other departments were asked to present their proposals and elaborate their visions of computer use at San Jose State University. A synopsis of the proposal follows.

First proposal: Developing an Educational Model for Clinical Reasoning, Assessment, and Treatment in Occupational and Physical Therapy.

Problem statement

We propose that a more efficient way of teaching theory, and application needs to be developed to match the varied learning styles of the student therapists and the clients that they serve in this culturally diverse population. Because the current health care delivery system requires that the therapist be more efficient in the delivery of health care services, the therapist often responds to the stress of the system by narrowing her/his focus rather than relying upon a holistic perspective.


The visual graphics capability as well as the ease of use of the workstation will allow for the development of such an intensely visual model. Linking the audio, visual and graphics capabilities of the workstation will allow for a multi-faceted approach to learning and tap into the learning styles of a diverse student population.

The Occupational Therapy Department was awarded the workstation with the provision that the department and college show the support for the training of faculty. The Associate Dean for the College of Applied Sciences and Arts became involved and stimulated a broader vision for the use of a more sophisticated, top end, computer system. He felt the need to support the level of excellence at the university and saw the potential for developing ongoing research and grants to aid in these endeavors. This led to the first lesson:

Lesson One

The initial proposal and concept lacked vision and was not cost effective. After some thought and research we realized that "if we got it we didn't want it." Limited vision = limited potential at a very high cost.

As a result of the realization of lesson 1 a delegation was sent to the computer manufacturer and, rather than accepting the system already granted, asked for a greatly expanded system. A selection of parts of the second proposal follows.

Second proposal: New Learning for Rehabilitation Excellence

The need: Currently, the means of teaching about the complex movements of the human body, known as kinesiology, have been limited. Students often have difficulty conceptualizing the principles of movements being presented in a lecture format, or through textbooks, audio and videotapes. These concepts are often presented using passive modes of learning, and students find it hared to relate them to the actual movements of their own muscles and joints. These formats do not permit immediate feedback whereby the functioning of their own bodies are a source of learning.

Furthermore, the language of the written and spoken word hampers students for whom English is a second language, or those who are learning disabled. In separate learning experiences such as practical, students have somewhat random experiential learning opportunities in a variety of clinical settings.

The vision: Virtual reality would open new realms of learning for students in rehabilitation disciplines such as occupational therapy. Virtual reality in real time allows learning to be integrated on a variety of levels, incorporating the information acquired intellectually with that which can be acquired physically through information generated through the students' own movements. The learning modes opened through virtual reality transcends both the limitations of language and the restrictions of random clinical experience which cause unwanted variation in learning.

Concept Application I - The Hand

The student would start out with a representation of the body (the hand will be used in this case).

Multicultural: The ability to show ideas and concepts as opposed to using words to attempt to communicate a three dimensional world is the dream of most teachers. We often say that if the student could get into our heads and see our concepts and visions and have a feeling for the clients limitations, that they would learn so much better. The language of both the written word and the spoken word hampers students that are learning disabled and those that English is a second, third, or even fourth language. Virtual reality can be the way to communicate these insights into the student's world. It can take the student out of sitting and attempting to envision what is being said when the student has not had the opportunity to experience the topic and allow the student to interact with the concept. Education in the health fields has been limited to lectures and hampered by random experiential learning in clinical settings. Virtual reality can free the instructor to create a visual representation that will not be limited by words and give the student an active role to play.

Presently the student must sit in lecture after lecture and passively receive information verbally (a hard thing to do when there is a language problem) but with virtual reality the opportunity arises to eliminate some of the language barriers and to let student become interactive with issues and problems using models that are experiential. This opens doors to the area of language free learning that may be used in all countries in the world with little if any translation. Interactive learning can free the student to learn without being hampered by language based communication and restrictions of experience since the experience can be built into the interaction.

One of the unique aspects of the Occupational Therapy program at San Jose State University is its' use of outpatient clinics to train our students. These clinics will be able to provide an ongoing laboratory to implement the use of virtual reality into clinical practice as well as a platform to explore the effectiveness of the use of V.R. in the classroom.

We use in excess of 300 clinical sites to place our students and all of the sites are potential support systems and research sites to implement this virtual reality program that is to be developed.

The campus foundation has been helping to support grant development and funding for ongoing faculty and technical personnel as well as equipment.

The Art Department has been a major purveyor of information in the development of this grant. The whole campus is a major resource which will be developed. This leads to the realization of lesson two.

Lesson Two

The second proposal did not adequately address the technical considerations and support services that would convince the computer the project would work. Underestimation of the implementation and maintenance requirements of a project = no funding.


The preceding proposal is being reviewed in order to present it to the computer company. At the same time funding is being sought for faculty development and support of the system. While all of the above has been happening there has been a need for constant collaboration and attending to the needs of all involved. The various departments have asked for support and attention by the Dean's Office. The Dean's Office has been in constant contact with the University Foundation Office and has been tracking down leads and attempting to support all involved with dwindling resources. As time goes on concepts are being further developed and new information is being processed daily.

"We owe it to ourselves and future generations to look closely at what the enthusiasts fail to tell us, and to listen attentively to what the skeptics fear."-p. 276 in Howard Rheingold's The Virtual Community (1993). This leads to the lesson three.

Lesson Three

We depended too heavily on the needs and interests of others. This is related to lesson two, because we did have adequate technical expertise we empowered the technician to the detriment of our vision. In other words, we adapted our vision to someone else's instead of finding someone who would support our vision. Over dependence = limited vision and compromises that limit the end product.


We have a new vision. Virtual reality affords the opportunity to gain knowledge and skills through multiple sensory interactions with computer generated learning environments. As a result participants who have been limited by traditional teaching methods may excel because their data access is expanded beyond reading and/or hearing words. Educators clearly recognize traditional classroom grades do not necessarily correlate with performance in the field. The former tends to be two dimensional and favors the passive receiver of information; the latter is multidimensional and favors the interactive participant.

Our grant proposals and foundation requests now incorporate a technological solution, a fiscal solution, and a faculty plan that clearly demonstrates our ability and commitment to create a virtual reality laboratory at San Jose State University.

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