Virtual Reality Training Enhances Learning

Two students use a virtual reality headset and controllers as a training tool.
Jared Libby

Virtual reality (VR) allows us to escape to enchanting vistas in countries we’ve only dreamed of visiting, brandish a sword and shield to slay a mighty dragon, and even construct architecture to fortify buildings, garages, and skyscrapers, but it also comes with practical purposes. The Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration (HVAC/R) Program at the William N. Pennington Applied Technology Center upgraded its utilities to provide simulated training exercises that improve student performance, enhance learning objectives, and retain firsthand experience on equipment. As the landscape for academic possibilities continues to evolve, the College is implementing leading-edge electronics to promote future careers and a realistic interpretation of what graduates can expect to do as professionals in their chosen industry.

The Ultimate Playground for the Mind

Popular among incoming undergrads, the PICO Neo 2 headsets create an immersive, lifelike atmosphere, encouraging workforce development in believable settings. Interactive education with VR is an entertaining and insightful approach to getting you excited about acquiring new skills while gathering fundamental knowledge. When strapping on the device and gazing through the lens, the surprise of being in a fully-rendered, three-dimensional space is stimulating, and your desire to play with its tools becomes obvious. As you grasp the left and right controllers in your palms, pieces move and rotate as you manipulate them in the environment, an accurate representation of how you would handle these instruments in the real world. School just got a lot more interesting.

Wes Evans, the lead HVAC/R Instructor, has seen reactions after testing this innovative resource, recalling a universal appreciation for how it teaches yet noting that authentic practice in the classroom is still essential in making them poised to succeed.

“It fits the learning style of students these days. There’s been talk of a better understanding when used. Virtual reality and hands-on together greatly increase their comprehension. It adds a different perspective, bringing moving parts that help with the teaching goals. However, we need to recognize that its design aids in the process, not replace it,” Evans said.

Other advantages come with this accessory, too, like demonstrating programs offered at TMCC through “field trips,” where community members take a tour and gain an awareness of what certain professions entail, such as dialysis technician, nurse, and environmental engineer. The first-person dimension adds fascination when surgical gloves coat your hands at the request to check a patient’s pulse rate. Suddenly, you’re in a hospital, actively participating as a healthcare worker in a resident’s room. The situation seems so convincing that your interest in the discipline peaks, a role in medical care appealing to your mind. Discovering your calling could be as simple as that in the 21st century.

Viola Pellissier, Library Technician 2, has had a brush with the VR engine herself, intrigued by its technological capabilities and how receptiveness to it is unanimously positive.

“I can say, from personal experience, when I tested out the HVAC simulation, I enjoyed it. You get a tour and demo of the equipment and then a quiz. I found it impressive. I appreciate how the models break down the equipment or anatomy you are looking at into basic parts,” Pellissier said.

“These prepared cyberspaces work with Canvas and lab instruction, so students could do bookwork, VR for practice, and head into the workshop. For distance learners that can’t come to campus, they can do the simulation and schedule in-person later with the instructor,” continued Pellissier.

Automated ingenuity and technical prowess are an excellent combination for student success. Northern Nevada yearns for graduates with expert qualifications who develop through modernized courses at the college level. The HVAC/R virtual reality initiative gives trainees a glimpse at the seemingly limitless prospects revolutionary technology can have in their lives. In a digital age, harnessing the power of interconnectivity through fresh and compelling curriculums will reward the next generation of learners with a valuable higher education.

For more information, please visit the HVAC/R website.