In a technology lab at Shenandoah University in Virginia, students battle monsters, partake in lunar landings, experience a Civil Rights-era sit-in, and play soccer in rocket-powered cars.
The Shenandoah Center for Immersive Learning (SCiL) lab is the university’s tech hub and the home of the school’s virtual reality and esports programs.
Preparing tomorrow’s leaders
Starting in 2019, Shenandoah will be one of the first schools in the country to offer degrees in both these programs: a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in virtual reality/augmented reality (AR/VR) design and a Bachelor of Science in esports.
These majors position Shenandoah students to take advantage of the next big tech boom.
“The new VR and esports majors join cybersecurity, data science, and computer science in our growing list of technology-focused programs,” says Provost Adrienne Bloss, Ph.D. “The synergies among these programs reflect the tremendous impact of technology in our lives and prepare students to be leaders in some of the fastest-growing industries in the world.”
Creating an immersive, hands-on VR program
Shenandoah recently partnered with Irish software firm Immersive VR Education. The company’s Engage platform helps educators build their own custom VR content.
Through Engage, Shenandoah students will build virtual worlds and scenes simulating life experiences. The result will be five-minute immersive training experiences for real-world clients nationwide. These training videos will aid businesses, law enforcement, and emergency medical services in everything from suicide prevention to communicating with patients with dementia. Shenandoah students will not only build the VR scenarios, but they will also be able to star as role players in the experiences.
“Engage is going to move us so far beyond our brick and mortar here at Shenandoah,” says J.J. Ruscella, M.F.A., SCiL executive director and associate professor of theatre. “We’re going to have the ability to help companies and entities nationwide. Rapid training and retraining of individuals is becoming essential. It’s important to be able to efficiently and cost-effectively train employees in the newest and best practices.”