Virtual reality training is coming to classrooms in the region

Students in career technology education programs and workforce trainees traditionally learn the tricks of their trade in the classroom or in the field. But thanks to a $1.49 million grant to provide virtual reality headsets and educational software, the Mississippi State University Research and Curriculum Unit plans to add another option.

Betsy Smith

Betsy Smith, director of research and curriculum at RCU, told The Dispatch that she and her team are in the process of purchasing VR headsets with an educational program to offer online curricula on topics ranging from health and wellness and mechanical engineering to culinary arts and restaurant management in classrooms across Golden. triangle.

“I’ve sampled some tools in the past,” Smith said. “I was able to see how to weld a bead, I was able to tighten the tubes, I was even able to work on some knives and culinary skills (all through virtual reality).”

Companies that produce VR headsets and educational units are welcome to submit proposals to RCU through their website. Smith and her team will review applicants and select a provider in November before ending the contract in December.

Once the contract is finalized, Smith said RCU will distribute the headphones to schools in Lowndes, Oktibbeha, Clay, Noxubee and Kemper counties, as well as the East Mississippi Community College campuses in Scooba and Communiversity on Interstate 82 west of Columbus starting in the spring. 2023.

The headphones offered to school districts will go to middle school electronic institution classes and high school professional technology education programs, where students will have access to online courses in anything from metal fabrication to hospitality management from the comfort of the classroom. Combined, Smith said, these headphones will provide more than 10,000 students with additional learning opportunities.

“We have some students who just don’t have the opportunity to go out and go see what’s available out there,” said RCU’s assistant director of business operations, Pam Stafford. “This would open them up to a whole new world of being able to see other opportunities available outside of their current location.”

Lenora Hogan

This isn’t the first time her school has used virtual reality headsets, Lenora Hogan, director of the Millsaps Career and Technical Center in the Starkville-Oktibbeha Consolidated School District, told The Dispatch. She said students benefit greatly from learning from real-world experiences without having to be there in person.

“The students were already able to see a career in action,” Hogan said. “One example I was fascinated by was our health sciences class; they had the opportunity to go through surgery and look at different things.”

The RCU will also provide headphones to the EMCC campus, offering job training, workforce development courses, and training for workers in local industries. Industry partners with RCU are International Paper and Motors Manufacturer PACCAR in Columbus and OCH Regional Medical Center in Starkville.

In hospitals, specifically, Smith said virtual reality can train students in skills such as inserting intravenous fluids or suturing a wound.

Cynthia Travis, director of human resources at OCH, said the medical center’s partnership with RCU has excellent potential for the hospital’s ability to train its staff quickly and effectively.

“We believe virtual reality training will significantly enhance our current training methods in preparing our workforce with the skills needed for a successful career in healthcare,” Travis said. OCHA has long recognized the benefits of collaborating with Michigan State University. The association between OCH and MSU is a great example of how the community can benefit greatly when organizations work together.”

In February, RCU received funds from the Appalachian Regional Committee’s POWER Grant Program.

Golden Triangle Development LINK has partnered with RCU by writing letters of support to ARC and will continue to help by providing a connection between the school and area industries, said Merrill Visakerli, LINK’s chief operating officer.

“LINK has always been proud to partner with Mississippi State and in the case of RCU,” said Visakerli. “For the grant, LINK will act as a liaison between the RCU for industries in the region once the grant is implemented.”

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