Waynesburg University was awarded a $2.5M grant from EON Reality, Inc., to fund implementation of virtual and augmented reality (XR) experiences through EON-XR, the company’s flagship solution.

“Students (will be able to) pull their cellphones out of their pockets, put on simple three-dimensional glasses, and become immersed in experiential lessons. They can visit locations around the world, manipulate objects in three dimensions, and take apart and rebuild complex models,” said Dr. James Rieker, instructional designer at Waynesburg University. “In effect, students will learn by doing, making, and exploring in ways that were not possible before.”

The grant will provide faculty with the tools necessary to build XR learning experiences for students across a host of disciplines, at both the undergraduate and the graduate level.

Dr. Janet Paladino, professor of biology, was instrumental in identifying and pursuing the grant. She spent time over the summer exploring new ways to use technology to enhance learning opportunities.

“After conducting a great deal of research, I discovered that there is a whole world out there, a virtual one, with the potential to revolutionize teaching and learning,” she said.

Paladino plans to utilize EON Reality’s XR solution to create 360-degree virtual field trips and lesson plans to educate students about international environmental issues and hopes to develop international collaborative efforts using EON-XR.

She is also interested in using the technology to develop virtual worlds in the biological sciences where students can travel inside a cell to study photosynthesis, or experience pollination of plants from the perspective of a honey bee.

“The possibilities for creating virtual worlds in STEM education are infinite,” Paladino said.

The implementation plan includes training a cohort of faculty on the platform beginning this fall, with several projects being piloted during the first year. The early focus will be on developing the supporting structures on campus and utilizing the University’s instructional design team’s expertise to pilot lessons.

Over five years, the technology will be implemented in academic programs across campus, likely providing every student at Waynesburg the opportunity to experience XR in a class at some point.

“Seeing a university like Waynesburg that is so eager and excited to bring EON-XR to their students and faculty is always thrilling for me, as it furthers my belief that we are truly making a difference in transforming education,” said Dan Lejerskar, EON Reality founder and chairman. “As we have seen over the last 18 months, providing students with hands-on and immersive experiences can be crucial for a proper classroom setting, and I can’t wait to see how Waynesburg University is able to utilize EON-XR to create, publish, and experience more XR content. Creating partnerships like this, both across America and around the world, is what EON Reality, our global network, and the knowledge metaverse are all about.”

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