UW Virtual Brain Project™

The UW Virtual Brain Project™ is making education more engaging through virtual reality (VR). The immersive learning environments spark excitement, and  improve student’s understanding of how the brain works.

To demonstrate the potential of VR-based learning, we have developed two lesson plans which can be downloaded below:  The Virtual Visual System™ and Virtual Auditory System™. The lesson plans immerse people in a model of the brain based on real brain scans, allowing them to follow the path from sensory input to cortex. Information stations along the way describe key topics at each stage of neural processing.

Our perspective on VR education is that VR is a lens, analogous to a microscope or telescope, through which students  experience content that would otherwise be difficult to see. We believe that the future of VR in the classroom is to provide enriched experiences that are integrated within the larger course structure, rather than supplant traditional education. Just as students do not spend entire classes with microscopes or telescopes attached to their face, they also need not to spend entire classes wearing VR headsets. VR acts as a springboard to facilitate class discussion and activities, rather than isolate students from each other and the instructor. Thus, the UW Virtual Brain Project™ lessons are brief (about 5 min.) and can be built into regular lessons on neural structure and function.

In the classroom. In Spring 2019, Professor Karen Schloss implemented the Virtual Visual System™ and Virtual Auditory System™ in her lecture course Psychology of Perception (Psych 406) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. With 25 Oculus Go headsets in hand, approx. 80 students cycled through a VR experience in about 20 min. This timing enabled setting up the topic using traditional lecturing methods, completing the VR experience, and then conducting group activities to practice content learned in VR and re-engage with the class community.

In the lab. The UW Virtual Brain Project™ team is  conducting research to demonstrate the efficacy of VR-based education and  to identify the aspects of VR that are especially beneficial to learning outcomes.

UW Virtual Brain Project™ team: Karen Schloss • Bas Rokers • Chris Racey • Simon Smith • Ross Treddinick • Nathaniel Miller • Melissa Schoenlein • Chris Castro

Download the UW Virtual Brain Project™