The University of Johannesburg launches new virtual augmented reality research to accelerate Stem education. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA).
The University of Johannesburg launches new virtual augmented reality research to accelerate Stem education. Picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA).

UJ Reality hub launches to advance virtual and augmented reality in Stem education

By IOL Reporter Time of article published Aug 4, 2021

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THE University of Johannesburg will be launching a new virtual augmented reality research and teaching hub to accelerate innovation in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (Stem) education field.

The new VARSTEME hub will be launched online at noon on Wednesday, August 4.

The hub is designed to create one of Africa’s primary academic centres dedicated to virtual and augmented reality in Stem learning.

The new centre is at Auckland Park Kingsway and will support research and education initiatives with the potential to deliver game-changing breakthroughs in the field.

The UJ VARSTEME hub builds on the Virtual Campus tour in VR with AR campus maps. In one example, virtual graduation ceremonies and links to online systems for graduates are available. These include digital certificates, electronic academic records and the graduation selfie picture feature.

UJ head of the Science and Technology Education Department Professor Umesh Ramnarain said the university had great expectations for the hub and believed that it could be a significant feature of the faculty.

“In December 2020, UJ was invited to do a presentation on the activities of the VARSTEME hub at the fifth Europe-Asia Symposium on Simulation & Serious Games for Education. It was the first invited presentation from an African country,” Ramnarain said.

The university said the goal of the VARSTEME hub was to equip pre-service and in-service teachers with knowledge and skills in the use of advanced learning technologies such as virtual and augmented reality (VAR) in Stem education. Associated with this goal, was the research agenda to pursue studies on the efficacy and pedagogy of VAR.

World leader in virtual and augmented reality Professor Yiyo Cai. from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, said: “UJ’s VARSTEME hub is well placed to assume a key leadership role in exploiting the affordances of virtual and augmented reality, not only in South Africa but on the African continent as a whole.”

Cai said that “through VARSTEME, international collaboration can be developed for next-generation education research”.

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