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Del Mar College center offers students virtual reality tools

Jul 01, 2023Jul 01, 2023

Del Mar College has added a new resource for students interested in anatomy — and virtual reality.

The college Student Success Center recently unveiled new virtual reality software that allows students to explore human anatomy to supplement the physical models in the center's anatomy lab.

Student Success Center Director Omar Villarreal said that the anatomy lab is one of the most popular and well-used spaces in the center, with 600 student visits each semester.

"I get very many visits to this A&P model room where it's important for students to be able to grab and manipulate and take apart and look at the different parts of the human body system," Villarreal said.

The resources at the student success center are aimed at giving students the tools they need to succeed in their classes. In addition to tutoring and academic counseling, students can also check out laptops and calculators from the center, lowering the financial burden of taking a class.

The college secured five virtual reality headsets last year through a pilot program to develop virtual classrooms. In looking for more applications for the technology, the center decided to purchase the anatomy software.

"There's really no reason to limit ourselves to the confines of physical space," Villarreal said. "We have access to virtual reality where our learning capabilities are nearly limitless."

Compared to the traditional physical models, the virtual reality software allows students to see the human body from new angles and in motion, zooming in to see an individual artery or the movement of bones and muscles when lifting a limb.

It is also cheaper than buying physical models, Villarreal said. The virtual reality technology and software cost about $4,500 total for five headsets that give users access to 15 human body systems, Villarreal said. Just one high quality physical model could cost as much as $10,000.

"It's more affordable and it's fun," Villarreal said.

Del Mar College student Colt Gillis, who is currently taking Anatomy II, hopes to enter the college's physical therapy assistant program.

"So far, in Anatomy I and II, have all been with the hands-on models, which has been good, but a lot of the models are old or they have stuff broken or pieces missing," Gillis said. "It will be nice to supplement how we learned with the hands-on models with VR."

Student Angel Santillan, who is also taking an anatomy course and is also interested in physical therapy, said that he saw a lot of opportunities with the virtual reality software after trying it out Wednesday.

"I think there's a lot of benefits and a lot of potential," Santillan said, noting that the software included models of parts of the human body that aren't included in the current collection of physical models.

Students can visit the center and use the technology, not only when studying anatomy, but also to explore other applications of the headsets including web browsing and videos and virtual museum tours and visits.

"I think it's going to be the way of the future when it comes to education for our students," Villarreal said.

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