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Ferris State receives grant for VR learning

Oleg Afonin |

Ferris State University hopes to make virtual learning in rural communities more engaging using virtual reality. 

The nearly $670,000 grant from the USDA will help fund the university’s STEM dual enrollment virtual reality initiative. 

Coordinator of Instructional Technology at Ferris State Andrew Peterson said virtual reality can improve online learning. 

“You really want to engage with students,” Peterson said. “You want to make that connection, you want to have that synchronous experience and VR is allowing for that. You can kind of have the best of both worlds, if it is designed right. That’s what we kind of hope to do with this hardware and technology.”

He said the goal of the grant is to remove the financial barrier, while creating an engaging atmosphere for dual enrolled students.

Director of the Office of Transfer and Secondary School Partnerships at Ferris State Deedee Stakley said 11 rural counties are partnered with the university for the program. She said the program benefits the partners.

“It removes the barrier of students that don’t have transportation or they can't drive to campus for a dual enrollment class,” she said. “It opens up more doors for dual enrollment that weren’t available to the students without this type of technology.”

The counties include: Benzie, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Montcalm, Oceana, Osceola and Wexford. 

Peterson said it is “realistic” that the program begins in the Fall 2021 semester.