Over the past 18 months, organizations have had to pivot and change to respond to new challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vancouver Community College (VCC) led the way by finding new ways to continue teaching essential skills to students both virtually and in-person – while safely maintaining nearly 40 per cent occupancy during the pandemic.
RBC Foundation stepped up to help address new student needs. In 2020, RBC donated $45,000 in support of a face-to-face program that was placed on hold at the pandemic’s outset. Recognizing the new challenges students were facing, RBC quickly agreed to reallocate these funds to purchase augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) technology to our trades’ departments to allow students to practice their skills while off-campus.
The first cohort to take advantage of the new technology were students from VCC's Auto Collision and Refinishing program, international students originating from China, Iran, South Korea, Taiwan, and India were able to practice virtual car-painting skills prior to classroom re-entry.
“Students were able to practice the physical motions of automotive refinishing at home and have had more time developing the muscle memory that is required to refinish. Through an app, students receive feedback on travel speed, spray gun distance, and spray gun angle – which are aspects of painting that are very difficult to explain to new students,” says Brett Griffiths, VCC Dean of Trades, Technology and Design.
Students reported having very positive experiences with the virtual learning tool. “Oculus was very helpful in learning automotive paint. It actually helped a lot in controlling my speed and distance from the painting surface and was directly related to actual painting,” notes one student.
An unexpected benefit to using AR/VR technology to assist virtual learning was that students gained confidence while attempting new skills in the privacy of their own home and without being concerned about wasting product.
“The Oculus helped a lot in gaining motor skills, “highlights another student. “It’s a great tool for someone like me, who never had painted before, to gain confidence and become comfortable with the equipment and finding what works for me (or not) and how I should move/position my body before actually going into a paint booth.”
“RBC’s gift will definitely keep on giving as additional VCC cohorts and programs can utilize this same equipment with a variety of software. These shifts in how and where we learn are silver linings revealed out of difficult times,” says VCC Foundation Director Nancy Nesbitt.
We thank RBC Foundation for their generosity and willingness to be flexible and meet the needs of our students.