Iowa company creates virtual reality classrooms for 10 universities

Students from 10 universities across the country can visit historic environments and perform surgery on corpses, all from the comfort of their homes, after an Iowa company specializing in virtual reality created digital campuses.

During the pandemic, students at Morehouse College in Atlanta reported that they were struggling with online learning. The university came to VictoryXR, a company in Davenport, Iowa. CEO Steve Grubbs had the solution: build a virtual campus replica.

Students and instructors wear virtual reality headsets to access a three-dimensional, computer-generated simulation of real-world locations and events. Users immersed in virtual reality, known as the metaverse, can move through the simulation and interact with others.

Within 10 weeks, teachers at Morehouse developed coursework for the program, and VictoryXR built the metaverse. At Morehouse, courses in inorganic chemistry, world history, and biology used the program.

“Next thing you know, their students take classes in the metaverse,” Grubbs said. “The first college in the world.”

Meta, the company that owns Facebook, has teamed up with VictoryXR to expand “metaversities” to the implementation of digital classrooms at Morehouse College and Fish University in Nashville, Tennessee.

Morehouse is one of 10 higher education institutions that qualify for virtual classrooms through a Meta award. According to a public records request submitted by The Chronicle of Higher Educationthe universities will receive more than $ 500,000 and virtual reality headsets under their contracts with VictoryXR.

Grubbs said virtual meeting programs like Zoom cannot recreate the student experience that virtual reality can.

Steve Grubbs founded VictoryXR, based in Davenport, Iowa, in 2016. (Photo courtesy of Steve Grubbs)

“In a metaversity you are all together and you are together in a classroom where you can punch, you can work on projects together, you can break up into small groups,” Grubbs said. “A teacher can take a human heart out of a corpse and give it to another student. This is the bottom line. It’s almost exactly like the brick-and-mortar classroom, only better. ”

Grubbs said students working in the metaverse will get the same education they would receive on campus, and in some ways better.

Grubbs said majors in health science would benefit most from the virtual experience, but history classes could also be enhanced by the metaverse. As on-campus entries decrease and distance education is increasing in demand, Grubbs said learning should be kinesthetic or hands-on.

One simulation that VictoryXR developed was the courtroom from the classic Harper Lee novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird.” While students discuss the book in class, they can sit with the jurors or in the judge’s chair.

“You can understand the book from the perspective of those who sat in the courtroom,” Grubbs said. “This is what we are trying to achieve, it is a concept that can only be achieved by being there. Students can stand on the Great Wall of China, they can go to Iceland and they can go to the Redwoods Forest as soon as they learn about our virtual reality. ”

Grubbs served in the Iowa House from 1990 to 1996, including as chairman of the Homeschooling Committee. He said he has always had an interest in developing new ways to improve education. Buffalo Elementary School in Buffalo, Iowa, was the first school to use VictoryXR’s virtual reality education program. Now schools around the world use VictoryXR’s product. Saint Ambrose University in Davenport will be the first higher education institution in Iowa to have a metaversity.

“They will be right next to the University of Kansas, West Virginia, Cal State, and many other major schools in the country,” Grubbs said.

Data collection

Meta will provide every university with Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headsets, what data can be collected while in use.

In the metaverse, students can create avatars to communicate with classmates, all from remote institutions. (Photo courtesy of VictoryXR)

All contracts in the public records requested from The Chronicle noted the universities retain the ultimate ownership of data generated in the partnership. Data collection will depend on the brand of headset students use, according to Grubbs. The technology of the award can come from Meta, Pico Technology or HTC, all with their own privacy data subscription policies.

Currently, Grubbs said no information is being collected from users. VictoryXR will not collect any data other than an email address and name to set up an account.

Users will be required to create a Facebook account to access the virtual classroom. Under Meta’s data policy, Oculus products may collect information about physical features and information from third-party applications. By passing information between third-party applications, the company enables users to connect with friends who also use the application, according to Meta.

Environmental, dimensional, and motion data will also be recorded to alert users as they approach a virtual border. Hand-sized estimates will be collected to activate the hand-tracking feature.

What’s next?

VictoryXR hopes to expand the business so that every school in the world will have a metaversity in the next five to seven years, Grubbs said. The company was in talks with several universities in Iowa. He plans to meet with the University of Iowa soon to talk about the future of virtual classrooms at the university.

VictoryXR opens its first metaversity in Europe in August and Grubbs plans to bring a business development aid to India in September. The business also won a global award for best education innovation last September.

Grubbs expects the industry to expand into augmented reality. In virtual reality, students are completely immersed and usually work remotely. Augmented reality creates virtual objects that are visible in the real classroom.

“They do not have to fly across the country and live on a campus because the metaverse is a campus,” he said.

Questions about the metaverse and VictoryXR can be directed to the VictoryXR website.

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