Rob Theriault has recently become Georgian College’s immersive lead, finding ways to employ XR technologies to enhance learning in various courses. He explains how faculties need to become innovation adopters if their students are to do the same.
Julie: Hello, my name is Julie Smithson, and I am your XR for Learning podcast host. I look forward to bringing you insight into changing the way that we learn and teach using XR technologies to explore, enhance, and individualize learning for everyone. And today, my guest is a good friend from here in Barrie, Ontario, in Canada. Welcome Rob Theriault, an immersive technology lead from Georgian College. Rob has been a part of the paramedics program, and asked just most recently to start taking over a lot more of the technology at the college. Thank you so much for joining me today, Rob. I'd love to get right into it and learn about your story and your position in the college. So thank you so much for being here today.
Rob: Hi, Julie. It's a pleasure. Thank you. You want some background?
Julie: Yeah, I would love that. Why don't you do a bit of introduction?
Rob: Sure. I've been a paramedic for 36 years and teaching paramedics for the last 20. And I've always had a keen interest in educational technology. But I'm also a skeptic when it comes to technology. So I think educators would be wise to be somewhat skeptical and cautious about using technology, ensuring that it actually enhances learning or provides something new to learning. A couple of years ago, I introduced virtual reality into our paramedic program for patient simulation primarily, and that led to a conversation with our president and vice president of academic, who wanted to know where I thought virtual and augmented reality was going. So I told them that I felt that it needed some investment, that it needed some leadership. And surprisingly, they agreed, created a position and set out. So now I'm the immersive technology lead for the college. And my role is to communicate with the faculty, to engage in exploring virtual reality, engage in its potential pedagogy, and to see about integrating virtual or augmented reality into curriculum.
Julie: That's amazing, because you're really introducing this technology into multiple different courses. So maybe you can actually talk a little bit about Georgian College's highlighted programs, because I know you and I have talked a lot over the past couple of years of knowing each other, and not every course can be put into these immersive technologies. You still need that one-on-one. So maybe do you want to talk a little bit about Georgian College's programs, and then taking a look at all the programs, which ones could have this technology applied to them and the ones that couldn't?
Rob: Yeah, I'm not sure about the ones that couldn't. I'm not convinced of the fact they're any-- that would not be amenable to virtual or augmented reality. But cross that bridge when I come to it. So our architectural technology program has been using virtual reality for the last three years. They were the first at the college. And it's a remarkable experience for students to be able to construct or design buildings from within the building, and have that spatial awareness and be able to test building materials in the process simultaneously. So they were the leaders in that area. And then we introduced it in the paramedic program. And I'm hoping to get funding to continue to use virtual reality in our advanced care paramedic program this fall. We're going to be using a program that involves students resuscitating patients from cardiac arrest and with different abnormal heart rhythms. And the program we're proposing to use employs artificial intelligence and voice recognition.