XULA BUILD’s Project Pathways Funds Virtual Reality Equipment for Biology Students

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Contact Info: bwashi15@xula.edu

Over the shoulder view of someone working on a laptop with a computer program open onscreen. There is a yellow banner with the XULA logo and text: “XULA BUILD’s Project Pathways funds virtual reality equipment for biology students.

By Brhea Washington

Xavier’s Building Infrastructure Leading to Diversity (XULA BUILD) program, Project Pathways, has provided funding for virtual reality equipment to be used in Xavier’s Biology Resource Center (BRC). 

zSpace, award-winning virtual reality equipment, is built into a portable laptop and paired with 3D glasses and a specialized stylus. Its built-in tracking system allows users to control what they are viewing by pointing their stylus at the screen. Users can pick up, move, dissect and actively engage with virtual objects as if they were real, creating a 360-degree immersive and interactive experience. zSpace features a wide range of educational programs, including biology, chemistry, anatomy, physiology and other science-based modules to promote learning.

zSpace’s website shares that its system helps foster kinesthetic and tactile learning, as users learn through physical demonstrations compared to books and lectures. This system has been advantageous for students as firsthand contact through physical demonstrations has been shown to aid in one’s recall and retention of information. 

BRC coordinator Bethany Stone said that the equipment has been beneficial to students, who can use the equipment in the resource center and independently. 

“We’ve been able to use the equipment in the resource center for tutoring. Students who come by who are in general biology courses get a chance to work with it, which has been really cool,” Stone said. “What’s great about having the equipment in the BRC has been that it can be used as a study tool for tutors and students—they are able to quiz themselves, which reinforces what they are learning.” 

Stone expressed how zSpace has been beneficial in improving students’ ability to comprehend complex and difficult science concepts. 

“One of the most challenging parts of general biology is [that] textbooks only show snapshots and 2D figures,” she said. “It can be hard to make connections. Students sometimes struggle with conceptualizing biology because they’re only used to seeing illustrations that are representative of other things.”

Stone also shared she has enjoyed watching the students explore and engage with zSpace as its technology creates a unique learning experience for students.

“My favorite part of the virtual reality experience is that it shows biology is a process. It is a much better visualization with 3D. You’re able to conceptualize what you’re learning and can see how it all goes together,” Stone said. “As student knowledge continues to develop, the virtual reality equipment helps students see individual parts while still seeing the whole picture.” 

As zSpace allows students to visualize learning in real-time, it exemplifies how modern technology helps education and learning evolve. Virtual reality equipment has the power to improve not only student development in biology but can also bridge the gap between discovering how impactful and effective different learning methods can be.

The Diversity Program Consortium Coordination and Evaluation Center at UCLA is supported by Office of the Director of the National Institutes of Health / National Institutes of General Medical Sciences under award number U54GM119024.
Need Assistance? Please contact our support team: info@diversityprogramconsortium.org .