Virtual learning becomes a reality

02 August 2016

Ten days, 1,000 virtual trains caught, 10,000 virtual passengers safely boarded onto the Caboolture train…

Well, it may not have been quite those numbers, but time spent at Queensland Rail’s Ekka pavilion highlighting Endeavour Foundation’s virtual travel training environment resulted in many happy customers – some experiencing train travel – albeit virtually – for the very first time. 

Throughout this year's Ekka, Service Development and Innovation Manager, Chris Beaumont and I stepped up to the yellow line and assisted people to don an Oculus Rift (virtual reality headset), grab an x-box controller and experience virtual reality (VR) via a number of virtual train environments. Users can see themselves represented on screen as they move around to top up their Go Card, "touch on" and "touch off" at the station, board a train and then hop off at the next station, all within a fully immersive, 360 degree environment.

Chris Beaumont, Qld Transport Minister Sterling Hinchliffe, Stewart Koplick

In collaboration with Queensland Rail, people attending the Ekka were able experience the sights and sounds of all things rail – from train buffs to lost souls looking for the platform – and then experience virtual train travel all within a safe, learning environment. 

And if responses from people are anything to go by – “that was awesome”, “so lifelike”, “man, that’s just cool!” (and that’s just from the adults…) - then VR is no longer the future; it’s today…

We’ve developed the Virtual Learning Environment in partnership with Queensland University of Technology.  It’s a ground breaker for people with a disability that we support, enabling them to experience multiple scenarios virtually and giving them the confidence and skills to try them in real life.  This can include leisure activities, meeting people, managing money and developing new skills – such as how to follow a recipe.

Jayden, 20, an enthusiastic use of the VLE was able to use it to take a virtual train ride further than his usual stop. “It gave me a bit more independence”, he said.  “I had a lot of fun, and highly recommend it people with special needs.”  We’ve taken his advice on board and are currently trialling the VLE in some of our Learning and Lifestyle programs.

Stewart Koplick is Endeavour Foundation's Learning and Development Services Manager.  He's passionate about the use of technology and innovation to bring new opportunities to people with a disability. 

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