Radford University’s criminal justice program is now implementing virtual reality into the classroom.
Instructors say it will help prepare students wen they get in the field and face those life and death dangers and decisions.
“I had a grin from ear to ear the first time I tried it,” says Radford University student Maya Johnson.
Stepping inside a prison without ever stepping a foot off campus-that’s just one of the experiences being offered to Radford University students, who are using virtual reality to open new doors.
“I think it includes a very dynamic approach to taking real world and putting it into an ability where we don’t have to leave the classroom,” says senior Jared Hutchens.
It began when professor and former warden Benjamin Wright began to look at innovative technology being used in the field.
“I saw where Colorado was using virtual reality for offenders re-entering society, to put them in realistic situations where they had to make decisions,” says Benjamin Wright, special purpose faculty at Radford.
Wright quickly learned he could use it for his students. Allowing them to step inside a crime scene. Students are able to act as investigators, exploring evidence in the famous Unabomber case.
“When you’re in the situation, it literally feels like you’re standing there,” says Hutchens.
“It is not what I was expecting, because when you see it online it’s not as clear or as graphic, but it felt like I was there,” says Radford University junior Taylor Sharpe.
While the virtual world may seem like fun and games, both the students and professor say they believe it has practical, real world applications.
“It’s not going to be the same as walking onto an actual crime scene, but if it gives us a better perspective of what to expect,” says Johnson.
And it’s only the first step. Wright plans to upgrade the lab with even more equipment, such as a 360 scanner.
“Having the students have that hands on experience so when they go out and they want a job in forensics or they want to be a detective, they’ve experienced it in college,” says Wright.
The virtual reality lab was introduced to a few students last semester and will be fully implemented into the classroom this semester.