Maria College, a private college in Albany, N.Y., announced the opening of its new Center for Academic Innovation (CAI), which includes more than 1,000 square feet of extended reality (XR) technologies to train students in nursing, anatomy and physiology, and human biology.

“The new technology that we now have available to deliver our nursing curriculum is a great example of the positive role XR can play in healthcare and, more broadly, in higher education,” said Dr. Jason Coley, director of the Center for Academic Innovation. “I’m thrilled to be able to bring these tools to our students – and hope to also bring them into other academic communities through our mobile VR labs.”

The new facility includes: 20 new computer stations; more than 30 virtual reality (VR) headsets; VR applications for nursing, anatomy and physiology, and related subjects; mobile VR labs for demonstration and instruction; 3D printing; drone technologies; and access to digital tutors powered by ChatGPT.

Maria College explained in a press release that the VR simulations allow nursing students to gain experiences in a three-dimensional environment where they can interact with a healthcare team, perform virtual clinical interventions, and receive feedback.

The school said this training expands both the number and types of clinical situations available for experience, increasing readiness for both clinical placement and working in the real world. These technologies are especially important because with an increase in the number of nurse trainees, the number of clinical placement rotations has decreased. Simulations are now a critical component of nursing training for practicing essential skills and increasing nurse confidence, Maria College officials said.

The new CAI is currently equipped to use XR equipment and applications with its nursing curriculum but will expand to support additional Maria College programs such as occupational therapy. Planning is also underway to capitalize on CAI’s mobile VR lab capabilities to offer educational outreach to schools and other organizations.

“It’s exciting to witness the new opportunities for both teaching and learning provided by our Center for Academic Innovation,” said Dr. Anne Jung, vice president for academic affairs. “Maria College is the only institution nationwide offering this kind of technology dedicated to nursing, and we intend to remain leaders in this arena.”

Money for the CAI Center came partially from $770,088 in Federal funding as part of the 2023 congressional appropriations package, which was used to purchase XR software, hardware, monitors, and other equipment.

In a press release, the college thanked Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., for helping to secure the funding.

“Opening this facility and offering critical training opportunities for nursing students directly responds to the need to alleviate the national shortage of nurses,” said Rep. Tonko. “This center will serve as a model for leveraging innovation to advance healthcare education, and I applaud Maria College for empowering its students to best serve our region as the health physicians of our future.”

Read More About
Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs