RAYMOND – Hinds Community College will have a new Interactive Digital Center this fall, thanks to a partnership with the California-based EON Reality, the global leader in Augmented and Virtual Reality-based knowledge and skills transfer for industry and education.
Rather than focusing on a single location with large-scale hardware, the Interactive Digital Center will bring EON-XR and several XR headsets and other devices to students and faculty on each of Hinds’ six campuses. In addition to providing these world-class solutions to the users, the new Interactive Digital Center also shows the college’s commitment to bringing the best technology available to its students both for software development purposes as well as utilization of it in other fields.
As the largest community college in Mississippi, Hinds has nearly 11,000 students and has a rich curriculum in both academic and career-technical education. This large and diverse population provides a unique opportunity for EON Reality to reach the next generation of both employees and entrepreneurs across the state.
It’s the perfect setup for the blend of academic learning and real-world practical career training that only EON-XR can provide, EON Reality officials said.
“Working with Hinds Community College will give us the chance to reach so many students and teachers who could greatly benefit from EON-XR’s technology. By launching an Interactive Digital Center for them, we’ve committed to delivering our top-of-the-line solutions and possibilities to them. We believe this will open up entirely new subjects to teach as well as new ways to teach existing material,” said Dan Lejerskar, founder of EON Reality.
The Interactive Digital Center will provide new ways for students and instructors to incorporate XR lessons into their daily education routine, while also allowing those interested in software development to learn more about creating XR content. Additionally, another benefit of Hinds’ large reach and influence throughout the state is that the XR solutions will likely reach local businesses through the training and education of the workforce, which will allow companies large and small to increase their own efficiency and production.
Hinds students in all academic and career-tech areas of study will benefit the platform. Students will be able to access more than 10,000 units of academic and career-tech content, said Dr. Chad Stocks, vice president of Workforce and Community Development.
“They will be able to put the goggles on and learn how to work on an engine without having to touch it at all,” Stocks said. “Then, when they’re actually working with the diesel engines, or driving that truck, or working on an automotive engine, or painting that building, they’ll be more than ready to do it.”
XR and VR technologies promise possibilities for the student experience when it comes to introductory classes, he added. Entry-level coursework can become more efficient and better prepare the college for sudden shifts in class delivery, as was seen in spring 2020 when the pandemic hit, he said.
“If we’d had something like this in place at the start of the pandemic, how beautiful would that have been?” Stocks said.
The virtual platform holds promise for the college’s traditional academic programs on a number of fronts.
“We look forward to providing training to our faculty, through our Center for Teaching and Learning, so we can use these exciting capabilities in all instruction,” said Dr. Keri Cole, Vice President of Instruction, Academic & Transfer. “The possibilities are endless – from geography, to our arts and sciences, to virtual field trips. These are experiences our students have not ever had before and will enhance the traditional classroom experience.”
In December 2020, the college received about $1.6 million from the state-run GEER (Governor’s Emergency Education Response) grant program to implement XR and VR platforms with the help of EON Reality, a California-based industry leader in the burgeoning technology.
The company itself has kicked in an extra $10 million to help the college get it ready for the fall 2021 semester, Stocks said.