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National University Launches Virtual Reality Campus

National University is building a new virtual campus it says will "harness the power of virtual and augmented reality experiences to power teaching, learning, and student engagement." Launching this year, the virtual campus will be available to students in select programs and "will enable online learners to explore campus, attend classes, interact with their peers and instructors, and participate in campus activities, just as they would in the physical world," the university said.

NU is collaborating with immersive experience developer Axon Park to recreate the elements of a traditional, physical college campus using advanced VR and 3D modeling technologies. The virtual campus will include a lifelike simulation of a campus student center and academic building, virtual recreational spaces, and an event space portal for virtual speaker and lecture series. Students will connect and interact with one another throughout the immersive environment using digital avatars.

"Immersive technologies like AR and VR are already having a profound impact on day-to-day consumer experiences, with far-reaching implications for society, education and the world of work. We are just beginning to understand the ways that these powerful, immersive experiences will transform teaching and learning, increase access and engage and captivate students," said Mark Milliron, president and CEO of National University, in a statement. "This is about creating immersive and engaging experiences that can bring the community of campus — and classroom instruction — into the convenience of the digital world. It's an exciting next step in our effort to deliver next-generation learning experiences for our students."

The university piloted a virtual reality-based nursing curriculum in its School of Health Professions as part of a project funded by a 2020 grant from the federal Health Resources and Services Administration. The success of that pilot led the institution to expand its immersive learning initiatives to a full virtual campus.

"When students experience the virtual campus for the first time, they are super impressed. Not only is this virtual campus going to open doors for historically underserved students to gain skills in careers with shortages such as education and healthcare, but it will also provide a much-needed sense of connection," said Gloria McNeal, who led the pilot program and serves as NU's associate vice president for community affairs in health. "Already, we've seen the positive impact of these immersive learning experiences in our nursing and health care education programs. The virtual campus is an exciting opportunity to provide students with a truly immersive experience that will enhance their learning outcomes."

About the Author

Rhea Kelly is editor in chief for Campus Technology, THE Journal, and Spaces4Learning. She can be reached at [email protected].

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