Making Big Data come to life for students is part of a new instructional design approach

University of Wisconsin (UW) data science students could soon don virtual reality headsets to navigate and interpret data.

A UW instructional designer says looking at Big Data in new and different ways can engage more students to pursue its study, and also can impact people’s lives.

The courses are part of the online Master of Data Science degree program offered by UW-Extension in collaboration with six UW campuses.

Ryan Martinez, an instructional designer for UW-Extension, sees both a need and an opportunity to make Big Data come to life in a way that can dramatically change people’s behavior.

His proposal to use Oculus virtual reality technology in the online UW Master of Data Science curriculum earned Martinez a highly-coveted spot at the Oculus Launch Pad Boot Camp at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, California, on May 21.

Oculus VR will provide feedback and mentorship to Martinez and 100 other pioneers joining him at the Oculus Launch Pad Boot Camp. Following the forum, Oculus will determine which concepts will earn scholarships ranging from $5,000 – $50,000, distributed with the objective of helping leaders realize their ideas.

“If data scientists could more quickly analyze data that’s already available, they could make faster decisions, act sooner, and potentially even save lives,” says Martinez. “All someone needs is a phone and a VR headset. What we can do to bring the data from virtual reality into real life — it’s incredible.”

“We’re proud to continue to lead the way with new technologies and practices in higher education,” says David Schejbal, dean, UW-Extension’s Continuing Education Division. “Ryan’s concept may potentially lead to innovative tools we could offer our data science students, and is an interesting option they probably haven’t even considered.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

Laura Ascione