At a time when the eternal debate on whether teaching should be based on new technologies to impart knowledge among students is revived, the surprising initiative to use virtual reality in university classrooms has now emerged. With this tool, partially based on glasses, the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona aims to bring the human body closer to students of biomedical sciences, dentistry, podiatry and medicine in a way they have never seen before.
The project designed and promoted by Professor Pepita Giménez-Bonafé, associate of the department of physiological sciences of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the Bellvitge campus, attempts to provide the necessary tools “for students to immerse themselves in virtual environments to achieve immersive sensory experiences.” In this way, 370 students will be able to visualize through virtual reality how blood circulates in our body, how it moves through our veins and arteries and how it reaches the heart where it is pumped and distributed to all the blood vessels.
“An experience where our students are surprised by both the potential of these utensils and how amazing our body is,” adds the teacher. Who argues that virtual reality glasses are a very valuable tool from different fields and a magnificent way to achieve an immersive sensory experience.
“My students want more, they have been wanting to see more; "It's like the first chapter of a series and you want to continue watching more episodes," Giménez-Bonafé compares when he wants to explain the reaction of his students to this innovative project in which they have been able to observe in great detail the heart and the lungs.
A 'first chapter' that Giménez-Bonafé managed to produce thanks to the RIMDA (Research, Innovation and Improvement of Teaching and Learning), linked to the DIGAPREN project (Digitalization of learning environments), also promoted by the Vice-rector for Teaching Policy, being one of the initiatives that the UB develops within the framework of the subsidy for the modernization and digitalization of the Spanish university system; linked to the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan financed by the European Union. And now she hopes to continue gaining support to be able to offer her students more trips through the human body and thus explore the liver, kidneys, adrenal glands and other vital organs.
It is an immersion that helps students barely have to memorize the dense theory “because they are soaked in the experience.” Something that already happens in other educational centers to understand things that, without virtual immersion, are more difficult to understand. Here, Giménez-Bonafé presents the case of other universities that use virtual reality to visualize situations that are very complex to describe with theory.
Practices with virtual reality glasses are a very attractive way to complement the theory “which always looks flat” and to internalize the functioning of those organs that appear in the book, says the teacher. “We cannot go backwards in a society that is moving forward,” and gives as an example that young people take notes today in universities with tablets and laptops and barely look at the keyboard when they do it, while other generations took them with a pen. "We have to adapt."
The University of Barcelona, one of the most innovative university centers, is committed to technology when preparing students so that when they finish their degree they can face a world of work where technological resources are the basis of many professions. In this case, “teachers have the responsibility of providing our university students with the tools that they will use in their reasoning process,” Giménez-Bonafé insists. Who adds that “the impact caused by virtual reality glasses is very significant.”
Immersium Studio is the company that has developed the software and that has provided the virtual reality glasses, where students insert their mobile phones - with a previously installed application - to enjoy the journey through the interior of the heart, its atria and ventricles, passing through various valves that the student must identify. Subsequently, it goes out to the lungs, through vessels that it must also recognize. Then, it re-enters the heart, describing through which vessels and valves it enters and how it exits the heart to the rest of the human body.
The Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the University of Barcelona is among the 50 best centers in the world to study medicine, according to the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) ranking. This year, the UB has risen positions compared to last year and is placed at number 46.