Quentin Tyler

College of Agriculture & Natural Resources; Associate Dean and Director for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Bridging Student Learning in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Through Virtual Reality

This project will enable us to collectively engage and teach students how to recognize unconscious bias through scenarios that will be played out in real time. The goal is to blend VR and data capture to create powerful experiences that helps individuals recognize their own bias in action

Project Solution:

The VR will allow participants to engage in two ways. In the first scenario, participants can simply be an observer on how bias plays out in certain situations and data will be captured. In scenario two, the participants will be able to experience the Virtual Reality scene as one of five characters that represent the myriad of Michigan State University students, accelerating their learning, understanding, and empathy and how bias affects certain demographics.

In this project, we propose to model an existing building on Michigan State University campus (Chittenden Hall) using immersive 3D technology. Once the VR headset (Oculus Rift) is on, the participant will find himself/ herself/themselves in front of the main entrance of the building. Using the VR touch controller, the participant will be able to enter the building through the main entrance, walk through the interior hallways of the building and be able to access one of the existing classrooms (that will be fully modeled in this project). This project will incorporate a feature where two VR users can enter the same space at the same time and be able to speak to one another through the headset. The two participants do not have to be physically in the same space but can connect virtually to the same space using WIFI. Participants can select up to 5 different avatars that will be customized for this project. These avatars will represent typical university students but will be representative for a wider range of avatars. In addition to customizing one’s own avatar, we propose 5 static avatars in the classroom. Two static avatars could be chatting together at the back of the classroom, one could be looking at their book and two could be looking at the board. The two VR participants may be able to enter the space and converse with one another.

The purpose of developing this immersive 3D experience is to demonstrate examples of where a student of color experiencing racial bias in the classroom or with interactions with others; an international student going through language barriers, or experiencing microaggressions of constantly being asked where they are from; a woman experiencing gender bias; a wheelchair user experiencing accessibility issues while finding his class; or person that is gender non-binary walking towards a restroom that is not for those that are non-gender conforming. These are few examples from many different scenarios that are possible to demonstrate using the VR project.

As a result of this project, students will gain competency in inclusivity and through the simulation develop techniques to ensure accessibility and inclusivity as they design, plan and construct buildings going forward in their respective work. Researchers using Virtual reality have demonstrated its effectiveness in studying and measuring human behavior and cognition. Because of the level of immersiveness, this technology has been effective in the treatment of phobias (Botella et al., 2017), anxiety, schizophrenia, depression, and post-traumatic stress (Freeman et al, 2017).

The VR will allow participants to engage in two ways. In the first scenario, participants can simply be an observer on how bias plays out in certain situations and data will be captured. In scenario two, the participants will be able to experience the Virtual Reality scene as one of five characters that represent the myriad of Michigan State University students, accelerating their learning, understanding, and empathy and how bias affects certain demographics. In addition, a survey through Qualtrics would be utilized before and after the experience as well as captured data through the simulation to assess student learning and development. A publication will result as well.

Learn more about Quentin Tyler (https://www.canr.msu.edu/people/quentin-tyler)