The University of Michigan (UM) now offers three online courses that incorporate extended reality (XR).

The courses, housed in UM’s Center for Academic Innovation, are the result of a partnership between UM and Coursera. UM said in a press release that the three initial courses are part of a set of 10 planned online classes.

“These courses allow people to explore virtual environments, learn skills essential to professional success in the future of work, and practice those critical skills in an immersive setting,” said James DeVaney, the center’s founding executive director. “This initiative leverages our strengths in design and storytelling as we bring immersive learning to scale in the service of innovative workforce development and lifelong learning. We’re excited to expand our partnership with Coursera once again as we continue to advance the global learning skills revolution.”

In a press release, UM said the Center for Academic Innovation “took a deliberate approach to build these immersive learning experiences, which included an emphasis on access and inclusion.” This deliberate approach led the center to focus the initial launches on interactive 360 video and identify courses across various professional disciplines.

Students can access the 360 video experiences via desktop, mobile device, or headset. UM noted that no additional equipment is needed, and learners can choose the technology they are most comfortable with. The interactive 360 videos enable deep immersion in a real-life scenario and let students practice fundamental skills in a contextualized learning environment, UM said. Additionally, students are also able to better understand learning concepts spatially and visually and explore environments that otherwise might not be accessible to them.

The three initial XR-enhanced courses available are “People, Technology, and the Future of Mobility,” “Advancing Health Equity: A Guide to Reducing Bias in Healthcare,” and “Feedback Loops: Feedback Fundamentals” within the multicourse series “Feedback Loops: How to Give and Receive High-Quality Feedback.”

Elisabeth Gerber, professor of public policy at U-M’s Ford School of Public Policy, created the “Future of Mobility” course, which explores the major technological innovations in the mobility space and asks learners to consider the potential social impact of these technologies, UM said in a statement.

A faculty team led by Ebbin Dotson, assistant professor of health management and policy at the U-M School of Public Health, created the “Advancing Health Equity” course. The course incorporates XR by providing interactive bias training that puts learners in scenarios where they witness or experience bias in health care.

Patrick Barry, director of digital academic initiatives and clinical assistant professor at the Law School, developed the “Feedback Loops” course series. The course teaches students how to give and receive quality feedback. By incorporating XR, learners can select from several physical settings and speech styles to practice the art and rhythms of giving a short speech.

“Watching the final version of the XR 360 case was amazing,” Dotson said. “The actors were great, the writing was clear and impactful, and XR enhanced a number of the behavior nuances that are impossible to teach in a traditional mode of instruction.”

UM said that future courses will utilize additional aspects of extended reality technology, including virtual reality, augmented reality, and virtual production, to support contextualized learning. UM is on track to launch the additional XR-enhanced courses by mid-2023. The new courses will cover topics including leadership, educational course design, nursing education, mindfulness, and negotiation.

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