Central Piedmont earns ‘Excellence Award in Emerging Learning Technology’

last modified Dec 19, 2018 11:36 AM

The Brandon Hall Group recently announced its 2018 Excellence Award recipients and awarded Central Piedmont Community College bronze in its “Best Advance in Emerging Learning Technology” category for implementing augmented reality and virtual reality (AR/VR) modules into the college’s mechatronics program. The awards honor organizations that have successfully deployed programs, strategies, modalities, processes, systems and tools that have achieved measurable results.

Central Piedmont received a $2.5 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training (TAACCCT) grant in 2014 to support its Mechatronics Re-Envisioned project aimed at creating a next- generation, competency-based training model that delivers more, highly qualified technicians into the region’s growing energy sector and advanced-manufacturing industry.

Central Piedmont, in partnership with MPS Interactive Systems, set to work, using the funding to enhance students’ classroom experience by digitizing portions of 10 different classes offered within Central Piedmont’s mechatronics program.

“Students immediately embraced the new learning format, which mimics a ‘flipped classroom,’” explains Mike Hogan, associate dean of STEM at Central Piedmont. “It allows students to interact with the content at home, gain a greater understanding of the topics being covered in the classroom and come to class with a better understanding of the material. The feedback from students and instructors alike was so positive, we immediately started thinking about how we could take this learning method to the next level. That’s when we decided to introduce AR and VR modules into the curriculum.”

The addition of the AR/VR modules has given students the opportunity to experience an automated manufacturing environment where they can develop the skills needed by employers without having to leave the classroom. In a way, it’s become a winning combination – instructors can create a virtual environment tailored to the field’s best learning practices and students can learn how to diagnose, maintain, fix, program and report on real-world advanced manufacturing situations without having to endure the repercussions of a mistake, a misstep that could be dangerous and/or costly in an actual work environment.

“Previously, students would have to observe the operation of a particular system with their line of sight compromised or read multiple document sources at the same time,” explains Hogan. “AR/VR technology gives us the ability to share the course information and experience in a more consistent way with students. Now, students have the same orientation to startup procedures, system operations and process flow each and every time, allowing them to learn at their own pace and interact with each station as often as needed.”

The impact of the project is already being felt in the classroom and beyond. Instructors report students are using the skills introduced through AR/VR technology to more quickly develop the hands-on skills and troubleshooting methods needed to succeed in their course’s lab requirement. This is vital, because as studies show, students who are more successful in the classroom are more likely to complete the degree program, enter the workforce and contribute to the local economy.

Learn more about Central Piedmont’s Mechatronics Re-Envisioned Project and Mechatronics program.