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"Technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) are rapidly expanding opportunities for teaching and learning, and they are giving college administrators new and different ways to track student outcomes.
To learn more about the impact of these technologies, we attended a handful of panels on the topic led by higher education and technology leaders at Educause's annual conference in Denver this week. From teaching with VR to tracking student success with AI, we explore how colleges and universities are using new technologies to conduct research, teach students and create smarter campuses.
Learning with virtual and augmented reality
Virtual and augmented reality tools can provide students with experiences that would be otherwise too expensive or even impossible to replicate in the real world, from exploring the inside of a cell to traversing faraway planets, said D. Christopher Brooks, director of research at the Educause Center for Analysis and Research.
At Hamilton College, for example, these tools are changing the way the 1,850-student liberal arts institution teaches human anatomy. Students there can learn about the body via simulations of human organs in virtual reality, said Ben Salzman, an instructional designer for the college. And even though such tools are primarily used to enhance student learning, they can double as cost-cutting measures. In the case of some virtual anatomy courses, dissections can be performed at any time without the need for an expensive cadaver.
Virtual and augmented reality programs can also help learners work on soft skills. At Penn State University, researchers have built an immersive augmented reality program called First Class in which future teachers can engage with simulated students in a virtual classroom setting. And — just like real students — they may get bored or act out, providing teachers the opportunity to practice handling difficult or novel situations, said Kyle Bowen, director of innovation for Teaching and Learning with Technology at Penn State."
Read more about AI and VR in higher ed at Education Dive