A NE Campus classroom is home to a new kind of experiential classroom. Experiential classrooms allow faculty and staff to sample, test and learn how to manage new classroom products, like new technology, dry-erase wall materials and moveable furniture, to select the best, most cost-effective products before introducing them to multiple classrooms across the district. While all five TCC campuses have an experiential classroom, NTAB 2203 will, in a couple of months, be the first to introduce virtual reality software to the classroom environment. That is if everything goes to according to plan, NE professional development chair Caroline Hamilton said.

“When fully equipped, the intent is for the room to contain virtual reality software allowing students and/or faculty and staff to be fully immersed within the content,” she said.

Hamilton, a neuroscientist by training, seeks strategies that can help increase student success and has found research that supports the idea that creating a 3-D environment for learning helps boost retention of the information and speeds up acquisition of the content, she said.

“If you consider faculty and staff as students, along with our students, you’re creating an environment that allows for everyone to learn the information much more fully and much quicker than through traditional methods,” she said.

Last spring, Hamilton, NE president Allen Goben, media services director David Mead and NE media services coordinator Cedric Hights began pursuing the concept of using virtual reality in a classroom, she said.

After several meetings to discuss the vision for the classroom, Mead and Hamilton visited EON Reality in Duncanville. EON Reality has virtual reality classes and a large virtual reality studio, Mead said.

“We went out there to see what they had and how we could adapt what they have into what we want to do,” he said.

The equipment EON Reality uses is expensive, but the budget for the experiential classroom wasn’t unlimited, he said.

“So what Cedric and I had to look at was, ‘OK, what can we find that’ll be just as effective but more cost-effective?’” Mead said.

Despite not being finished yet, the experiential classroom is functional and already has classes being taught in it with instructors implementing the new technology and teaching tools the classroom has available, Hights said.

“It’s working, but we’re still fine-tuning some things,” he said. “Like, we’ve got some parts that are still coming in.”

Currently, the experiential classroom has three projectors with 3-D capability attached to the ceiling, a fourth projector attached to a moveable, interactive board, three or four moveable and collaborative TV stations, glass boards, a wireless mouse and keyboard, moveable furniture and a touch panel, where all of the technology in the room has been integrated for easier use and control, Hights said.

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