The role of 3D technology in higher education

Posted on December 11, 2020 by Jonathan Symcox

Theme park designer (Pexels)

It is a well-known fact, proven by numerous educational studies, that the most effective education is experiential. Professionals in pedagogics say that learning is best achieved through doing and personal experience.

Some disciplines have always engaged students in experiential education, such as environmental science or electrical engineering. But in others, like construction engineering, law, or medicine, it is more difficult to organize experiential education because of a challenge to get hands-on experience. Also, there are sciences, such as molecular biology, physics, or urban planning, in which the objects of study are inaccessible except by models and proxies.

Luckily, modern 3D technology enables experiential teaching and learning in various disciplines where it seemed to be impossible before. A huge benefit of 3D for education is that it can make the invisible visible and the inaccessible accessible.

Probably, the most straightforward use of 3D technology is to re-create real objects and spaces in virtual environments, for instance, historical sites. One of the earliest works for education in VR was done at the University of Virginia in the mid-2000s. The scientists recreated locations in ancient Rome as accurately as possible, which enabled people to “walk through” VR-like digital models. Similarly, the Sacred Centers in India project developed a VR walkthrough of the Vishnupada Temple. As you see, 3D technology gives us an opportunity to re-create inaccessible real spaces and improve research as well as education.

Except personal experience mentioned above, another highly effective element of education is a narrative component. Storytelling helps to generate interest, provides a structure for memorizing information, and assists individuals to contextualize what they are learning. Multiple studies demonstrate that narrative is a great pedagogical tool even for topics that are not generally considered as having a natural story, for instance, in sciences. So how is it related to 3D technology? Since VR allows users to immerse in a simulation, it makes a narrative developed by others become a student’s personal experience. Sounds like a powerful way of providing knowledge, doesn’t it?

What’s more, some research shows that VR might be used to teach empathy. When we read a book or watch a movie, we are observers. Even though we can learn a lot by imagining ourselves in certain situations, we are not there. But when it comes to virtual reality, the body and the mind interpret everything as an authentic experience, which helps to develop empathy.

Being in virtual reality boosts brain activity similar to writing. When students are working on essay writing, they keep imagining themselves in certain settings. VR helps to form new neurological pathways that bring us to an unexisting world and creative writing does the same. We can literally shape our brain with the help of 3D visualization and writing. But unfortunately, even those students who realize the importance of writing cannot always deal with all the home tasks. Some of them turn to a professional essay writing service at Writix.co.uk to order cheap essays. It might be a very good decision that saves time for other educational activities. As you see, modern technology helps students in various ways. An individual just needs to choose which one is the most effective for a certain educational goal.

Virtual spaces also allow students to manipulate the objects in ways beyond possible in the real world. For instance, people studying medicine can explore the functions and diseases of organs in VR simulations created by the human anatomy lab at Hamilton College. The Immersive Tools for Learning Basic Anatomy project at Yale University managed to create tools that enable the manipulation of not only generic anatomy but also of individualized one. Can you imagine that scientists can convert the outputs of medical imaging devices into 3D objects and environments?

Anatomy simulations enable teaching, learning, and experimentation in unbelievable ways. 3D modeling allows students to conduct dissections and practice the same technique multiple times. Moreover, certain diseases and conditions are so rare that a medical student might never have a chance to see an organ with a specific condition. But with the help of 3D technology, young people can see and treat even the rarest illnesses.

Another important use of 3D technology is interaction with objects that are very small or very large. A student from Lehigh University has built a VR model that provides the visualization of cells, atoms, and enzymes. Thus, they can be expanded to a size large enough to be manipulated. At the same time, 3D modeling allows us to reduce the sizes of large objects, such as buildings, to a manipulable size.

And last but not least, VR is commonly used for the visual arts. Sometimes, materials or shapes might be difficult or too expensive to work with for educational purposes. Because of that students from FIU decided to design jewelry in VR. In a similar way, arts faculty students experimented with VR sculptures, which can be 3D printed. Also, at Hamilton and Lehigh, young people learn to design stage sets and lighting schemes with the help of VR.

As you see, 3D technology plays a vital role in our everyday lives, especially, when it comes to education. It can give students experiences that are too rare, too costly, too dangerous, or too remote.

Author’s bio

Vendy Adams is an academic writer and an IT tutor. As a big fan of modern 3D technology, he believes that this is the future of education. Vendy does his best to apply virtual reality tools in his educational work and observes the outstanding results of his teaching approach.

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