As an innovative, forward-thinking institution, Fife College is committed to our Digital Strategy and our investment in the technology and infrastructure to support this strategy, and playing our part in Scotland being a vibrant, inclusive digital nation. In order to deliver on this, we must put digital at the heart of everything we do – especially within our learning and teaching.
One of the ways in which we are continuing to improve our teaching practices and engage our learners is through virtual reality.
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated simulation of a 3D environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using electronic equipment, such as a headset or gloves.
There are many benefits to incorporating VR in our curriculum. It can enable experiential learning by simulating real-world environments, allowing students to feel a connection to the subject material, making it easier for application and retention of a particular subject.
VR is currently being used in various departments across the College and much of this technology has been developed in-house.
We caught up with the teams involved to hear how it is being used to improve the student learning experience.
Community and Supported Learning
Within the vocationally-related subjects that make up our Supported Learning courses, VR has been introduced to bring learning alive and engage students.
Students undertake projects that help to develop their social employability skills through the medium of VR. Using VR helps to address barriers to learning through expanding the students’ essential skills. VR activities are designed to build confidence and increase self-confidence and awareness, as well as intensify awareness of each other’s needs.
Lecturer Marc Forrester, who introduced VR into the Supported Learning curriculum in 2016, said: “VR is one of the biggest ever technological developments and will make a huge impact to our futures. Some say it’s an even bigger leap than when audiences were introduced to sound in movies.”
Foundation Apprenticeship Events
As part of the five hugely successful Foundation Apprenticeship Events, organised for school pupils from high school in Fife, the College's School College Partnership team ran VR workshops. These workshops afforded pupils an insight into what learning using the latest cutting-edge technology is like – and how the technology can transport them to virtual worlds. The workshops were a particular favourite with all the pupils across each of the events.
VR is being used by the Built Environment Technician and Interior Design team as part of design, sketching and drawing elements of our HNC: and HND: Architectural Technology courses.
The software allows students to explore cities with iconic historical architecture – such as Rome or Paris. The students are able to immerse themselves totally in the virtual environment, via a headset, and get a real feel for the scale of the city’s architecture. It also allows them to apply architectural terminology, such as mass or volume, to a ‘real life’ environment.
The technology was used in the College for the first time last year, with students reporting that they absorbed more information via VR than they would have with more traditional methods as the software brings the learning to life.
After the successful pilot in 16/17, the software is once again being used this academic year – and this is only the start! The team are looking to build upon this foundation by developing an exciting venture with a Tier 1 building contractor and a university to look at utilising VR/iHR (immersive hybrid reality) as a design and building inspection tool around a BIM context.
Games and Animation is an industry at the forefront of virtual reality technology. Our Digital Technology students benefit from cutting-edge technology as part of their courses.
Engineering – Fabrication and Welding and Wind Turbine Safety
Engineering staff regularly use VR within their department to share knowledge and skills with students.
An excellent example of this is the department’s ‘Weldability SIF Virtual Welding’ equipment. This equipment can be thought of as welding meets computer games technology. It allows students to practise their skills in a classroom environment, and record and replay their efforts on a big screen. This even helps lecturers introduce the craft to school children in a safe environment.
The Fabrication and Welding team were recently invited to demonstrate the virtual welding software to students and staff at Forth Valley College. The virtual welding software is a fantastic tool which helps train students in class rather that in a workshop which has many benefits; mainly that there are no health and safety restrictions compared to a workshop environment.
Another example of virtual reality being used within engineering and energy is the College’s award winning Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab. The Lab, which was launched in June, won Gold in the Digital Education Category at College Development Network’s annual event.
Winning the Digital Education Award marked the culmination of months of hard work for Fife College’s Faculty of Engineering, Energy and Mathematics who launched the state-of-the-art Immersive Hybrid Reality Lab at the College’s Rosyth Campus. The Lab was designed to enhance the training and development of the next generation of offshore wind turbine technicians by combining the real and virtual worlds and introducing them to a realistic working environment to prepare them for employment.
The team’s work in partnership with Shell and Fife Council to encourage woman into engineering, was also recognised at the awards ceremony as Skills for Work: Energy (Girls into Energy (SHELL)) was awarded Highly Commended in the Developing a Regional Curriculum category.