Pretoria - The University of Pretoria’s (UP) innovative teaching and learning initiatives have been disrupting the norm for several years.
A significant milestone in its journey of navigating disruption in higher education has been the Innovation Excellence Award its immersive learning exhibition received. This was presented at the 21st Sasol Techno X Science, Maths, Engineering and Technology Exhibition, held in Sasolburg from August 14 to 18.
The award-winning exhibition was hosted collaboratively by UP’s Faculty of Engineering, Built Environment and Information Technology and the Faculty of Health Sciences.
The exhibition targeted learners from marginalised communities in Grade 8 to Grade 12. It was focused on exposing them to the infinite possibilities of a career in science, technology, engineering and maths.
Immersive learning is the teaching method of the future. UP envisages a virtual reality headset augmenting traditional learning tools in experiential education efforts. Today’s learners need to be prepared for the university classroom of the future.
At UP, the Department of Mining Engineering was at the forefront of this disruptive technology when it established the Virtual Reality Centre for Mine Design with the visionary support of Kumba Iron Ore, a member of the Anglo American plc group, in 2015. It has since also established a Research Chair in Extended Reality Technology in collaboration with the Department of Information Science, with the support of Exxaro Resources Limited.
This led to the University of Pretoria being a trailblazer in interactive immersive learning, thereby enhancing education, training and research through an innovative approach to information optimalisation and visualisation.
The exhibition introduced learners to immersive learning using virtual reality and extended reality tools in the disciplines that form part of these two faculties. It focused on the Virtual Reality Centre in the Department of Mining Engineering, the Extended Reality Toybox in the Faculty of Health Sciences, the Digital Twin City in the Department of Architecture and the Information Hub in the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute of the Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.
The Health Sciences Extended Reality Toybox is an incubator for immersive learning as it exposes the faculty’s students and staff to Extended Reality (XR) technology. A replica of this toybox formed part of the Sasol X exhibition. It offered visitors the opportunity to experience immersive learning with virtual reality headsets, and to discover how technology will influence the future of education.
Calvin Nel, a postgraduate student in radiography observed: “Sasol Techno X presented the opportunity to create awareness about the field of diagnostic radiography as a noble science and career.”
As UP continues to shape the future of education, its commitment to immersive learning stands as a shining example of innovation and progress in higher education.