COPH uses VR technology to teach hurricane preparedness

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The USF College of Public Health has a new way of educating the community about hurricane preparedness through the use of virtual reality (VR) technology.  

Carlos Montoya, instructional/multimedia developer at the COPH, came up with the idea of using a virtual realty simulation to prepare students and the community for a hurricane after watching a preparedness demonstration video from COPH visiting instructor Elizabeth Dunn.

Virtual reality headset. (Photo from Google images)
Virtual reality headset. (Photo from Google images)

“I have worked with Elizabeth before as she has implemented a lot of interactive technological tools within her classes. She is the type of educator who wants her students to interact with each other and the community, so I reached out to her and asked if she wanted to work with me on creating the VR hurricane preparedness training,” Montoya said.

To start, Dunn created a transcript and laid out all the content that needed to be included in the training. Montoya then put this information into a story board and together they met with USF’s Audio Visual Center (AVC).

AVC had the virtual reality software needed to make the training more immersive and they were all on board to help make Montoya and Dunn’s vision a reality.

AVC suggested including objects such as hurricane supplies that the user can click on to learn more. There should also be a video aspect.

For the video aspect, Oddi Diaz, COPH videographer, shot multiple videos of Dunn explaining how to correctly prepare for a hurricane and what specific supplies are needed based on various scenarios and situations.

They also decided to include a questionnaire at the end of the training, which tests what the user has retained and give feedback on each answer given.

Once completed, Dunn gathered a group of students to test out the training.

COPH students testing of the VR hurricane preparedness training video. (Photo courtesy of Montoya)
COPH students testing of the VR hurricane preparedness training video. (Photo courtesy of Montoya)

“We gave the focus group a survey after they completed the training. We received a very positive reaction from them, not just because the video was entertaining but it was extremely educational,” Montoya said.

Montoya said the main goal of the VR hurricane training was to increase the user’s ability to retain hurricane preparedness information.

“Virtual reality, or any type of immersive learning, is about the learner and submerging the user into the content,” Montoya said. “When you immerse yourself into the actual content, that experience is more meaningful and you kind of retain more of that information than you would sitting and listening to someone tell you what you should do or have.”

Montoya and Dunn not only want this training, which is free to use, to be implemented at USF, but also be widely available to those in the community and public as well.

“I believe VR gives us an opportunity to bring the outside world into the classroom, so that students can make better decision and be assessed in a safe environment before they go out in the field,” Montoya said.

In the future Montoya wants to use other types of immersive learning technology, such as augmented reality and 360° video.

“Elizabeth and I talked about using 360° video at various points of distribution for example, where the public goes to pick up emergency supplies following a disaster to record first responders and emergency personnel so that students and others would be able to see and immerse themselves with a 360° view of the emergency inside a safe environment,” Montoya said. “They’ll be able to see what decisions they should make after a disaster and feel like they are experiencing that environment firsthand without the danger.”

Montoya believes that the 360° video and immersive technology in the future could be used by public health professionals to help them interact with communities locally and globally to spread public awareness on issues.

“The more interaction we have between the public and public health content, the better,” Montoya said. “I believe that this immersive technology will make a more meaningful learning experience for users and the information communicated will be retained.”

Take part in the training here: https://avc.web.usf.edu/projects/hpvr/

To navigate:

  • Use the arrows in your keyboard to move around (even during the intro video)
  • Use the mouse to play the videos, to click on each item to see a description, to click on the home icon and to answer the questions at the end
  • To go from one table to the next, you must click on the home icon in the middle. After you have watched one of the videos, move around using the <- or -> and you’ll see the icon in the middle. Once you click on it, you can go to the next table of your choice.
  • When you’re done visiting all the tables, you will see a button to watch a conclusion video. After this video, you will get an option to go back to the training or take a knowledge check.

Story by Caitlin Keough, USF College of Public Health

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