2017 Impact Awards

Serving Students with AR and VR

Oral Roberts University built a Global Learning Center that combines anytime, anywhere access to information, course materials and streaming media with a deep dive into augmented and virtual reality.

Campus Technology Impact Awards

Category: Student Systems & Services

Project: Global Learning Center

Project lead: Michael Mathews, associate vice president for innovation and technology

Tech lineup: EON Reality, rSmart

Oral Roberts University's Global Learning Center team is providing a worldwide community of students with a rich collection of learning materials enhanced with virtual reality.

As Oral Roberts University began work on an augmented and virtual reality initiative back in 2014, academic and technology leaders on campus determined that offering the latest AR/VR content resources to the local Tulsa, OK-based campus was simply not enough. Under the leadership of ORU President William Wilson, and with a strong commitment and a Globalization Case Statement from the Board of Trustees, the university set out to "use new paradigms in technologies to reach millions" — addressing both concept skills and professional competence for students around the globe.

The university invested $8.5 million to construct a Global Learning Center that was in full service by AY 2016-2017. The center's planners decided that AR/VR would be among the key technologies they would use to bring ORU's education to students worldwide. Along with classrooms, studios, a performance hall and conference rooms, the center's upper level features an AR/VR facility dedicated to content in more than 7,000 academic subjects. To make a growing volume of curricular content more easily accessible for both campus-based and international students, the plan included a Digital IT Concierge service — with a simple search interface that helps students identify the resources and services they need 24/7.

The ambitious plan for AR/VR content discovery and access is a good fit for the university as it defines its role and services in the digital age. Through the Global Learning Center, students not only experience advanced digital technology routinely, they also become part of ORU's entire global community of students who have access to educational media and relevant services where and when they need them.

Project lead Michael Mathews

Faculty and staff use the AR/VR platform — with the digital concierge — to collaborate with peers and offer innovative, relevant, interactive content and services. "Our seamless service and solutions — which harmoniously connect innovative teamwork and leading-edge technologies — are directly benefitting students," said project lead and AVP for Innovation and Technology Michael Mathews.

Operating at scale, and with a need to establish services within an acceptable timeline, the center's programs must draw on technologies that will support quick and reliable content creation and still promote innovation, experimentation and leadership. ORU chose vendor partners that could align with the university's vision as well as its development needs.

The university created a supportive and flexible environment for change. Faculty and administrators can browse a library of existing interactive AR/VR lessons to incorporate into their courses, or they can create their own content from scratch. ORU selected the AR/VR software platform by EON Reality as the best fit. With EON's cloud-based AR/VR platform, ORU can develop, run, manage, access, store, host and distribute its AR/VR applications to a wide range of devices, from smartphones and holographic displays to ORU's immersive three-dimensional VR room. Faculty and staff of all experience levels have used the platform to create knowledge transfer applications and build their development skills as desired. Academic planners observed that these educators have created more than half a million learning objects to date.

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Finally, the most important element in the Global Learning Center's success is delivering all of the newly developed content resources to their appropriate audiences. Planners partnered with rSmart to implement that company's OneCampus product — a lightweight, cloud-based service that makes it easy for students to discover and access relevant information. Students query the university's disparate resources and services via a simple, central interface known on campus as ORU's Digital IT Concierge. The search-based system sits on top of existing business applications and connects users through ORU's authentication system. The OneCampus solution was deployed without disruption within the first 48 hours.

Now, through the digital concierge, students have access to all of ORU's mobile and web-based campus services, including curricula, AR/VR lessons, academic calendars, events, advising and practical information such as campus maps and dining services. The Digital IT Concierge has become the center of knowledge transfer across campus. Officials estimate that an astonishing 93 billion data transactions are engaged throughout campus each semester through the digital concierge.

For the Global Learning Center, OneCampus is the crucial link that has helped to build a connected and global learning community that prospers from ORU's advanced AR/VR resources. As Mathews reflected, "ORU is the first university to deploy an enterprise approach to augmented and virtual reality content that can be discovered and accessed by students globally through a cloud-based portal. By offering easy access to our Global Learning Center through the Digital IT Concierge, we can now provide students worldwide with full immersion into a digital world that includes many thousands of highly relevant learning objects."

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