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Virtual Reality Software Brings Online Classrooms to Life at Davenport University

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Davenport becomes one of the first universities in the nation to use virtual reality to enhance learning experience for remote students

Davenport University is bringing a new sense of space to its online learners and remote staff with the introduction of virtual reality software. Davenport is the first university in Michigan to adopt a new platform that mimics a traditional college campus classroom experience through an online community.

Davenport brings virtual reality to the classroom

“Davenport has a 20-year history of offering bachelor and graduate programs online,” said Dr. Richard J. Pappas, president of Davenport University. “That is why we are well-positioned, during this challenging time of a pandemic, to expand our university’s use of online technologies and create an even more effective classroom experience for both our professors and their students.”

To make this cyberspace a reality, Davenport utilizes virtual reality software VirBELA, a virtual campus that is dedicated to changing the way businesses, and now universities, think about and adapt to the needs of their online stakeholders.

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“Davenport University staff began piloting the software nearly a year ago,” said Brian Miller, dean of the global campus at Davenport University. “It was first introduced as a way to provide our online learning community with a heightened sense of togetherness while simultaneously gamifying and adapting the college experience to individuals of all learning and working styles.”

Since being introduced to the platform, the university has been using it as a classroom for select online classes and as an internal team management space for its remote staff.

“Both students and staff enjoy the adaptability of the software and the real-life interactions that the software replicates,” said Jeff Wiggerman, director of instructional technology and delivery systems at Davenport University. “Even after leaving the software, the virtual space persists just as it would in a physical setting – providing our online students, staff and faculty with a sense of place and community.”

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This new virtual platform is bringing with it unique features and experiences that cannot be replicated in a standard video chat or conference call. Such as:

  • Creation of a personal avatar to “represent the student”
  • Sticky notes that a user can hang on the wall and use to take notes
  • TVs that a presenter can use to display a slide presentation
  • Privacy zones that give users a safe space to interact

VirBELA has recognized the university for its progressive, forward-thinking use of the technology and asked both Miller and Wiggerman to share their learnings virtually at their annual conference this past October.

Davenport University is set to introduce the software into its online bachelor’s in health information management degree program this spring. At the same time, it will continue to look for ways to expand how and where it uses the software. The university is planning to host its first virtual graduate fair on March 31. It will have representatives from each of the university’s colleges – business, technology and health – as well as admissions, advising and career services.

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