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Seneca Students Get Real-life Experiences with Virtual Reality

Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto is now helping dementia-affected students get better through virtual reality (VR) based experiences. Professor Tania Killian at the King Campus is pushing the boundaries of experiential learning after winning $10,000 from the King Township Women of Influence Giving Circle at Seneca.

Trixia Kay Santos is a third-year student of nursing at the King Campus of Seneca. She suffers from dementia and had faced difficult situations in life because of the condition. Losing track of her whereabouts in a marketplace and accompanying negative emotions such as panic, fear and confusion, are what she felt whilst exploring dementia through VR technology.

According to Santos, although the college’s program offers simulation labs and textbooks, donning virtual reality goggles and gaining first-hand experiences from another person’s perspective offers a detailed understanding of what is being studied. She says that the VR experience encourages empathy.

Virtual reality experiences similar to the one Santos underwent, are being positioned amidst pre-recorded scenarios that dementia patients face, within many of Seneca’s programs. Professor Tania Killian, a teacher of the School of Nursing and Workplace Safety and Prevention diploma course, did not express surprise for the fact that the initiative was received well by students. Killian has recently stepped into the role of experiential learning facilitator at the King Campus.

Professor Tania Killian is helping with VR. Image source: Newmarkettoday

According to Killian, the bulk of students are now learning with the help of technology such as VR. She stressed that students are technically proficient, and are more inclined towards using handheld devices compared to books. Killian revealed that most students already utilise virtual reality for entertainment purposes, and that her team was capitalising on the fact for enhancing learning experiences.

The necessity for using advanced simulation labs in programs such as nursing has been of prime importance for some time. But Killian aimed to revolutionise experiential learning after winning $10,000 from King Township Women of Influence Giving Circle at Seneca for her proposal of equipping students with VR headsets for improved learning. Killian used the fund for purchasing nine virtual reality cameras and two 360-degree headsets. She has also managed to film program-relevant VR experiences instead of focusing on pre-made commercial ones.

Killian revealed that her team’s goal was to incorporate VR into all of King’s programs, and they intend to establish a VR hub for this purpose. She highlighted that employers seek out students carrying experience, as conventional field visits and simulation labs offer restrictive experiences to limited number of students. Contrarily, a VR experience can be accessed by any student, for as many times they need. Killian elaborated further, saying that students could use the same environments at their convenience, to reach their intended level of skill.

VR-based experiential learning aids students in tackling challenging circumstances they might come across in their profession. Apart from Killian’s program, another initiative that has gained a push is King’s veterinary technician diploma program. Filming in VR for topics like lambing are currently underway for the program. Professor Kirsti Clarida said that the learning scope of all students will rise radically when the VR feature is available.

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