MADISON, Wis. - Students at Madison College are taking the first-ever virtual reality class in the United States through a digital innovations class. Their marketing professor, Steve Noll, said it may be the future of classrooms.
"I think this will be a more regular type of thing that becomes a part of higher education," Noll said.
Through an app called Altspace, the students plug into the virtual classroom Noll created. He said the class combines an in-person class with an online one.
"Imagine a student who maybe has mobility issues, or has been in an accident, or is sick, or is far away" Noll said. "Virtual reality would still allow them to be a part of that classroom."
One of Noll's students, Connor Jacobson, created his avatar to look similar to himself. He said that this morning he was fishing and drinking a beer, but all from the comfort of his home through virtual reality. Despite the fun Jacobson said he has, he's still learning.
From Jacobson's experience growing up in a traditional classroom, he feels like he's learning just as much, if not more with virtual reality. From a professional perspective, Jacobson said he could enter the virtual reality to go to a meeting in New York, and then later be at one in Tokyo.
Students have free access to the headsets and two hand controllers that accompany each one, from a grant awarded to Madison College. They're able to take the supplies home for class.
Noll will collect student input throughout the semester, including the students' perspective on if they think they lost any human connection. So far, Jacobson said he has no problem communicating.
"I met a friend from Great Britain and I think Nigeria the other day," Jacobson said. "We were all playing poker and met people all over the world. It's really cool."
If the class goes well, Noll said students may start seeing virtual reality classes in other fields of study. For example, Noll said a class studying heart surgeries, could perform a surgery virtually, before they try it out in real life. A digital innovations class is already scheduled for next semester.
Outside of the classroom, Jacobson started a virtual reality club with the help of Noll, so that students who aren't enrolled in the class can still experience the technology.
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