Cairns students take learning virtual

Cairns State High School students are benefiting from world-leading Virtual Reality (VR) technology thanks to Endeavour Foundation.

The disability service provider has worked with Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and other developers to create unique VR learning tools to teach people a range of life and work-related skills including how to use an ATM, catch public transport, and drive a car or forklift truck.

Cairns State High School is one of the first schools to receive and integrate an Endeavour Foundation VR hub into some of its classes this year with other regional and rural Queensland schools to follow.

Intended for people with learning disabilities, the Virtual Learning programs are proving a hit with school students of all abilities.

“The beauty of these programs is that they are aimed at assisting students with different learning disabilities practice skills in a safe environment before unleashing them in the real world,” said Endeavour Foundation Service Design Partner Chris Beaumont.

“We originally developed these tools for our adult Learning and Lifestyle day services, however, they’re perfect for school students because it feels like you’re playing a game but you’re actually learning too.”

“It helps everyday situations become familiar before you run any risks so when you’re ready to catch a train for the first time or even drive a car, you feel more confident in real-life thanks to the virtual practice.”

Cairns State High School Executive Principal Christopher Zilm said the new technology was already improving learning outcomes for students who had used it.

“Students who have had access to this technology thanks to Endeavour Foundation have had early entry experience to industry, smoothing their success pathway into the future,” said Mr Zilm.

“Being able to learn through the simulated scenarios, workplace and tasks in 3D will open doors and create opportunities for our young people.”

As part of the VR package, Cairns State High School has received a fast gaming computer, VR headset, software, and training to run VR learning programs – all provided by Endeavour Foundation.

A combination of funding sources including $100,000 over two years in community funding from Arrow Energy and a $150,000 grant from the Gladys Myrtle Brown Charitable Trust have meant regional and rural Queensland schools won’t miss out on the latest technology.

Mr Beaumont said schools were already finding different applications for the VR hardware and software.

“One school in the Surat Basin which trailed the Virtual learning environments last year has already begun to incorporate them into their biology lessons by using them to explore simulations of human body cells,” he said.

“We’re just beginning to understand what can be achieved with this technology and no doubt more innovations are on the way now that our innovative regional schools have access to these fantastic resources.”

By the end of 2021, Endeavour Foundation will have rolled out 17 VR learning hubs to regional Queensland schools, including Cairns State High School, thanks to funding from both Arrow Energy and the Gladys Myrtle Brown Charitable Trust.