Virtual reality being utilized as a learning tool at USU

A USU student uses the new virtual reality technology in Utah State University's Merrill-Cazier Library.

LOGAN – Virtual reality has made its way into Utah State University’s Merrill-Cazier Library. The technology, which aims to give students a more hands-on and visual learning experience, is expected by some at the university to be heavily used by many learning institutions in the near future.

The technology became available at USU earlier this month. Students are now able to check out the virtual reality headsets and equipment from the library’s circulation desk. From there, they go to a special study room where the 3-D learning experience can take place.

An anatomy student can examine a 3-D skeleton, an engineering student can look at a bridge from every angle and a chemistry student can see the complexities of an atom up close. Todd Hugie, USU’s director of Library Information Technology, is a believer in the technology’s usefulness for students. He said it will enhance learning, especially for visual learners.

“Education is starting to take off with this,” he said. “I would say we’re at the forefront of it, but there are others who have this and are using it.”

It’s a technology that is already rapidly increasing in popularity, and USU Manager of Information Technology Gary Egbert said he expects it to continue that way.

“There are a lot of (virtual reality) apps out there right now, especially for gaming,” he said, “but in the education arena they are starting to come and be developed, a lot of them.”

In addition to increasing in popularity, Hugie said he expects major advances technologically.

“If you look at some big companies like Apple, Google, Samsung, Microsoft – they are all putting a lot of money toward these technologies,” he said. “They claim that this technology is going to be really big. The money that is going to be invested in the next two years, it is up in the hundreds of billions of dollars.”

Egbert said that the student response has been good, that the equipment is already heavily being used. Three different departments – Library Information Technologies, Academic & Instructional Services and Information Technology Computer Labs – combined to bring the technology to USU. The faculty are being encouraged to implement it in their curriculum.

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