Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Canterbury Uni puts another $1M to waste

The Canterbury tales have gone virtual earlier this month. At least, the New Zealand version as the Canterbury University receives $1.77 NZD from the Government's Encouraging and Supporting Innovation Fund for a three-year project designing virtual work environments to give students practical experience. According to Canterbury University HitLab director Mark Billinghurst New Zealand is lagging behind in Virtual Technology. The funding will go into research for chemical engineering, audiology and health sciences.

Online newspaper Stuff did an extensive report on this funding on Januari 1st and gave us some ideas where the money would be going:

"Audiology students would work with virtual human subjects to test different rates of hearing impairments that could be difficult to find in the general population, he said.Students could even be virtually shrunk and find themselves walking inside a 3D model of an ear canal with sound waves floating through the air.."

There might not be a lot of Government investment in virtual worlds in New Zealand, but Canterbury Uni joins a host of universities spending millions of dollars in Virtual Worlds such as Second Life. The really sounds like something the Ohio State University has done a long time ago, be it on a different field of expertise in recreating a testis for students to explore.

The university is working with the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology to create a virtual work environment for nurses in training.

With virtual technology, they could practise their bedside manner and diagnostic skills without leaving the campus.

"This fills a gap in traditional education. There's a lot of book learning, but when people start jobs they don't necessarily have that hands-on experience," Billinghurst said.

Exactly the same thing has been done by the Ohio State University as well. I don't see a lot of innovation there. Don't get me wrong here though.

I'm a huge fan of educational institutes using the power of virtual worlds to enhance their programmes. The thing is, each and every institute is reinventing the wheel time and again, spending millions of dollars on projects that have been done before and can be modified for a few bucks. It is time for Educational institutes to organise themselves and create a widespread vision and cooperation to make an interactive, interoperable virtual curriculum instead of isolated projects.

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