Travel far and wide and take a load off from exams with virtual reality headsets

In late March and early April, two small groups of Lees-McRae honors students set off on adventures all around the world, with some even traveling to space. They did not have to board a plane, hop on a train, or take off in a space shuttle, however. All they had to do was walk up the stairs in the Dottie M. Shelton Learning Commons and don an Oculus Quest 2 Virtual Reality headset.

Geared toward filling the gap that the COVID-19 pandemic made on honors students’ travel plans, the headsets offer an alternative experiential learning opportunity. With the headsets, students can visit the Anne Frank Museum in Amsterdam, climb Machu Picchu in Peru, explore the frozen tundra of Antarctica, and even set out on a space walk off the International Space Station.

“An important part of the honors experience is travel, so while we’ve had COVID we decided that this would provide an alternative to regular travel,” Director of the Honors Program Ken Craig said. “It’s both educational and fun.”

Junior Pre-Veterinary Medicine major Sarah Clifton enjoyed climbing the ancient stones of Machu Picchu, taking photos of friendly llamas along the way. “Nice shot! I love the photobomb from the llama,” her tour guide exclaimed as Clifton snapped virtual photos with the Oculus Quest joysticks.

Senior Pre-Veterinary Medicine major Preston Turner chose to float through the International Space Station in anti-gravity. After exploring the station and being able to look down onto Earth from above, Turner is excited to hopefully explore more of the experiential learning opportunities that the VR headsets can provide.

“I most definitely want to do something like that again,” Turner said. “I think it would be super cool if there was some sort of anatomy program or some way that you could get up close and personal with animals.”

Now even more students will have the opportunity to take advantage of this opportunity for adventure with this week’s VR de-stress event. Director of Library Services Jess Bellemer is organizing the event to give students an opportunity to let loose and have some fun in the busy days leading up to the end of the school year.

Participants will have the opportunity to set off on a virtual adventure of their own as well as participate in other fun, calming activities provided by the Learning Commons.

“We’ll also have stations with games, coloring, and weaving set up in the library for students who just need a break,” Bellemer said. “Those will be up all day. All of this will be open to everyone, employees included. On Friday we’ll have our late-night event. The library will be open until 3 a.m. and we’ll have snacks for the students.”

The library will remain open late on April 29 to give students a chance to get some last-minute studying in before their exams. The food service will begin at 5 p.m.

All the additional activities will be available through finals week. Dates and times for each VR session are as follows:

Monday, April 25 from 12:30−1:30 p.m. in LIB 120

Wednesday, April 27 from 10−11 a.m. in LIB 204

Thursday, April 28 from 4−5 p.m. in LIB 205

Friday, April 29 from 11 a.m.−12 p.m. in LIB 120

By Maya JarrellApril 21, 2022
AcademicsCampus Life