Pioneering virtual reality projects for Sheffield College students win award

19th December 2022

The Sheffield College has won a regional award for its pioneering use of virtual reality technology to enhance students’ teaching and learning experience.

The College won the Innovator - Best New Product/Service category of the Sheffield Business Awards 2022.

Steve Spence, Assistant Principal, Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Innovation, The Sheffield College, said: “It’s great to be recognised in this way by the city’s business community.”

He added: “It is exciting to be at the forefront of exploring how new technologies can enrich our students’ learning experience and support employers to get the skills they need for growth.”

Virtual reality technology is set to be used by teaching staff in future with the potential to expand its use across the curriculum.

In a national first, the College has been awarded funding from the NCFE Assessment Innovation Fund to trial the use of virtual reality technology and investigate its impact on student assessments.

Students from three curriculum areas, animal care, catering and construction, are set to take part in the NCFE pilot project that involves using virtual reality technology to practise and test skills as part of the assessment process.

With the NCFE funding, the College has purchased 50 high-spec Oculus Quest headsets that will enable students to immerse themselves in the world of the sectors they are studying.

The headsets will be used in a range of ways in future. In animal care, the College will create experiences in real-world sanctuaries and animal parks to build and curate virtual reality inductions for students.

In catering, students will have access to their practical spaces through virtual reality experiences built in the College kitchens, helping them to benefit from contextualised assessment.

The research that the College gathers in the pilot project, once it has been completed, will help staff understand how best to integrate virtual reality technology into the curriculum and innovate on approaches to assessment.

Virtual reality technology is also being applied by the College other ways. For example, the employer engagement team has launched a series of virtual reality tours of employers’ premises.

Employers involved in the initiative include Audion Packaging Machines, Cubana Tapas Bar and Restaurant, Kickabout Academy, Kier Group Ltd, Power Martial Arts Centre, Sheffield Wednesday Football Club, S20 Health and Fitness, UltraFlex Gym Rotherham, Universal Office Products and Virgin Money.

Students can also access the Forage virtual reality placement platform. This provides them with an understanding of different roles and industries, including in global companies such as Goldman Sachs, PWC and Deloitte.

Rachel Topliss, Head of Employer Engagement, The Sheffield College, said: “We are delighted to win recognition for our use of virtual reality technology in this way, which helps our students go further in their careers.”

Curriculum teams are also building and curating tailored virtual reality experiences and activities for SEND and inclusion students to enhance their learning.

Prior to a trip to Edale in the Peak District, staff filmed where the students would be staying and what they would be doing.

Some were anxious following the easing of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions. As a result of the filming, every student attended the Edale trip when previously they had been reticent.

The Sheffield Business Awards celebrate the city’s business community. They are hosted by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce and unLTD business magazine and sponsored by CMS.

The winners were announced at a ceremony on December 8th, 2022, at Peddler Warehouse, Neepsend, Sheffield.

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