The University’s Lighthouse Virtual Reality Outreach Project has been awarded the 2018 Australian Rural Education Award  by the Society for the Provision of Rural Education in Australia (SPERA). Sonal Singh, Widening Participation Unit Planning Manager, accepted the award on behalf of the University at SPERA’s 34th National Conference, earlier this month at Curtin University.

The Lighthouse Virtual Reality Outreach Project offers students from regional and remote areas an engaging experience that builds awareness of, and connection with, the University. Through VR students journey through campus, helping them to demystify what life as a university student might be like. Through the project, students are offered educational experiences often not available to them as a result of geographic distance and technological isolation.

Credit for the HEPPP funded project goes to the University’s Department of Computing and the Widening Participation Unit. Associate Professor Manolya Kavakli, Director of Virtual Reality Lab at the Simulation Hub, Kevin Lucas (PhD Student) and Sonal Singh, Widening Participation Planning Manager, worked collectively to deliver an engaging and immersive VR campus experience. Professor Sean Brawley, Pro Vice-Chancellor Programs and Pathways, commended the award-winning project as a positive reflection of the University’s work in the outreach space,  “to win an award that speaks to new and creative thinking in professional practice is a fitting tribute to the new approach to widening participation that MQ adopted in 2018.”

The Lighthouse VR Outreach Project is the first initiative of its kind and has inspired talk of collaboration among SPERA’s educational community who see the project’s potential to grow and deliver many more engaging opportunities for regional and remote students. The VR Outreach Project could potentially link regional communities and other educational providers, in a collaborative framework that reduces barriers for regional and remote students to access and participate in higher education.

Primary and secondary school students from NSW’s Broken Hill district have been the first to experience the Lighthouse VR Outreach Project, when it was delivered via the LEAP ROADS program. Students enthusiastically participated in the experience, providing positive feedback for areas of development that are now being considered for 2019.

We look forward to the coming year and to further growing the network started via the Lighthouse Virtual Reality Outreach Project.

Posted by Carolina Morison

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