National University taps AR and VR technologies to build virtual campus for interactive learning experiences and online learner engagement

University launching virtual reality campus to boost engagement

National University taps AR and VR technologies to build virtual campus for interactive learning experiences and online learner engagement

National University, a veteran-founded university and one of the largest private nonprofit Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) in the U.S., plans to launch a new virtual campus that will harness the power of virtual and augmented reality experiences to power teaching, learning and student engagement.

Through a collaboration with immersive experience developer Axon Park, the university will build a virtual campus that will enable online learners to explore campus, attend classes, interact with their peers and instructors, and participate in campus activities–just as they would in the physical world.

“Immersive technologies like AR and VR are already having a profound impact on day-to-day consumer experiences, with far-reaching implications for society, education and the world of work. We are just beginning to understand the ways that these powerful, immersive experiences will transform teaching and learning, increase access and engage and captivate students,” said Dr. Mark Milliron, president and CEO of National University.

“This is about creating immersive and engaging experiences that can bring the community of campus—and classroom instruction—into the convenience of the digital world. It’s an exciting next step in our effort to deliver next-generation learning experiences for our students.”

The launch of the new virtual campus comes at a time when a growing number of colleges and universities are beginning to experiment with XR and immersive technologies as a tool for instruction and student engagement. Early research on the impact of AR and VR suggests the immersive and interactive nature of these emerging technologies may help improve content mastery, student engagement, and retention.

National University’s virtual campus will launch in 2023 and will initially be available to students in select programs. It vividly recreates elements of a traditional, physical college campus, created using advanced VR and 3D modeling technologies. In this digital environment, students can explore a lifelike simulation of a campus student center and academic building, creating a fully immersive environment for digital instruction and virtual field trips.

Students can also explore virtual recreational spaces, such as an open walkway where students can connect and interact with each other using digital avatars, and an event space portal, through which students can attend virtual speaker and lecture series.

The expansion of National University’s immersive learning initiatives follows a successful pilot program within its School of Health Professions, which in 2020 received a federal Health Resources and Services Administration grant to build a new virtual reality-based curriculum for the university’s nursing education programs. The pilot program has been led by Dr. Gloria McNeal, a nurse educator and former Navy Nurse Corps Officer who serves as associate vice president for community affairs in health at National University.

“When students experience the virtual campus for the first time, they are super impressed. Not only is this virtual campus going to open doors for historically underserved students to gain skills in careers with shortages such as education and healthcare, but it will also provide a much-needed sense of connection,” said Dr. Gloria McNeal. “Already, we’ve seen the positive impact of these immersive learning experiences in our nursing and health care education programs. The virtual campus is an exciting opportunity to provide students with a truly immersive experience that will enhance their learning outcomes.”

This press release originally appeared online.

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