The college created an “Interactive 3-D Virtual Science Initiative.”INVISION Kentucky virtual lab 1Kentucky College of Optometry students use interactive 3-D computers in the virtual reality lab on campus.

The Kentucky College of Optometry and the University of Pikeville information technology department have won the Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities Innovational Educational Technology Award.

The award comes in recognition of the Kentucky College of Optometry's “Interactive 3-D Virtual Science Initiative.”

Professors at the college are no longer limited to using two-dimensional illustrations to teach three-dimensional concepts. Students utilize interactive 3-D technology to learn about complex concepts, including the most delicate intricacies of the eye and neurologic structures.

Dr. Donnie Akers, assistant clinical professor, is working with ViziTech, a national leader in the field of virtual reality education, to create an immersive, virtual environment to deliver content in the college’s classrooms and laboratories.

“Students don specially designed 3-D polarized glasses in class and see the words and illustrations in 3-D,” Akers said. “This is especially important when teaching subjects like gross, ocular and neuro anatomy as the material involves three-dimensional structures and their relationships to surrounding structures. This is not just 3-D but interactive 3-D, so if a student has a specific question the professor can interact and manipulate the images to better answer the questions.”

Optometry students are already using interactive 3-D computers in the gross anatomy lab. Traditional lab settings can be limiting and do not allow students to be engaged equally.

In the college’s virtual reality lab, Akers noted that every student has a station.

“Each student can perform virtual dissection at the pace and style that best suits their preferred learning style,” Akers said. “They can either dissect and save their progress on a flash drive for viewing at home or they can dissect the same part of the body over and over again.”

The gross anatomy software provides for entire systems to be toggled on and off allowing students to learn the complexity of the nervous and circulatory systems. Once systems are studied individually, all can be reviewed together for final structure relationship studies.

“Dr. Akers’ incredible futuristic design of gross anatomy dissection, anatomy lecture presentation and classroom presentations of ocular anatomy will present life-like 3-D human spatial realities for the students to work on,” said Dr. Andrew Buzzelli, vice president for optometric education and founding dean of the Kentucky College of Optometry. “Dr. Akers’ creation of the cutting-edge virtual curriculum puts us in the league of the leading medical colleges in the United States. Harvard University, Cornell University, The University of Chicago, University of Iowa and Arizona State University have all switched to virtual reality pedagogies in their medical school’s basic science programs.”

The Association of Independent Kentucky Colleges and Universities 2016 awards recognize innovative and successful new campus initiatives in the areas of applications, student online services, technology infrastructure projects and most innovative use of technology for instructional purposes.

“This award for Dr. Akers and UPIKE Information Technology recognizes that the Kentucky College of Optometry is differentiated clearly not only by the optometry curriculum of the future but also the educational technology of the future,” Buzzelli said.

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