Virtual reality changing how professors teach at Eastern Michigan

Several colleges on the campus of  Eastern Michigan University are jumping on board and exploring the use of cutting-edge virtual reality technology to help modernize student learning.

"Virtual reality is poised to take off," said Professor Michael McVey, EMU Teacher Education Department. "They can just put on their goggles and enter into the virtual space."

And once inside this virtual space the technology can create augmented reality experiences for students to get a greater understanding of their learning material.

"This is the most hands-on experience that I’ve actually gotten, rather than getting an internship," said Milo Lees, EMU undergraduate mechanical engineering student/VR lab assistant. "Everything is kind of abstract but when you get in here and all comes together.

"I go inside and this is part of the plane, take out the part, pick out the part - there it is."

Virtual reality learning takes place at the University’s GameAbove College of Technology and Engineering. University professors say this technology adds layers of safety when needed and is also cost-effective.

"With virtual reality, you cut something and they say you wasted it - it’s not ruined you just say reset and you don’t pay for that piece of material you just ruined," said Professor Frank Fedel, EMU Orthotics and Prosthetics program.

"When you’re in here, you can do anything you can do in the real world without the repercussions of breaking things and you have more access to things," Lees said.

Professor and students say what’s also great about this technology is that it removes walls from education.

"I see it as being able to eliminate some of the spatial issues so students overseas may only have to come to our program for a lesser time because they can do some of this virtually," said Fedel.

For now professors are looking into hardware to expand the technology on campus

"There are so many competing vendors with hardware we put together a committee to look to see which hardware supports the most programs the best," Fedel said.

Lees, a graduating senior, said he was glad virtual reality was incorporated into his program to be prepared for the job market.

"If I have the experience working on this equipment that’s only available at the heavy hitters -  GM, Boeing, these are the guys that have really integrated virtual reality," he said. "I will be one of the few people coming out of undergrad with his knowledge."