The world is changing, and so is the economy. More and more, the types of well-paying jobs that are becoming available, include STEM subjects, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math. And ensuring that more students have access to quality education in these subjects is critical, especially in rural areas, where there is a shortage of experts in these fields. That’s why it’s so fantastic to see that Ferris State, a Public University in Big Rapids, Michigan, has received a $669,216 Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant, from the USDA, for their FerrisNow STEM Dual Enrollment Virtual Reality (FerrisNowVR) Initiative.
So why is this so important?
One of the biggest issues that the job market is seeing in certain areas is not a lack of jobs becoming available but a lack of skilled applicants, trained to meet the demands of a new, demanding technologically advanced market. Education and job training especially if made more available in low-income, rural, and otherwise disproportionately disadvantaged areas could change the economic makeup and opportunity base for those areas. And this is not just about a college education, which carries a significant price tag, but K-12 and high school programming, aimed at getting students interested in involved in STEM subjects.
So let’s talk a bit about the Ferris Now VR Initiative, and why this program receiving funding:
Firstly, the goal of the initiative is to increase the number of STEM courses made available to rural high-school students through dual enrollment. Dual enrollment is when high-school students are simultaneously enrolled in college-level courses, which actually may allow lowering the cost of an overall college education. These courses will be held live, but will be available online, and, will use immersive virtual technology to create a more engaging and collaborative online class experience for these students. As far as the students who be eligible for these courses, students residing in Benzie, Isabella, Kent, Lake, Mason, Mecosta, Missaukee, Montcalm, Oceana, Osceola, and Wexford counties in Michigan, will have access to this program.
Deedee Stakley, Ferris’ director of the Office of Transfer and Secondary School Partnerships spoke on this grant award:
The focus of this technology provides access to virtual dual enrollment education for high school students. The technology connects Ferris State University and students in rural communities. The equipment can be used for additional VR experiences to meet the needs of school districts and communities.”
The goals of this program include opening up three virtual reality-enabled hubs on Ferris State campus, as well as virtual reality enabled classrooms across twenty rural locations serving over 5,000 students, across eleven Michigan counties. Ferris campus hub sites will be set up with fixed VR conferencing equipment installed in specially designated classrooms.
These hubs will be equipped with:
- high-end computers
- VR headsets
- digital writing tablets
- basic electrical support elements
The virtual reality-enabled classrooms locations will be outfitted with:
- VR headsets
- VR capable laptops
- electrical support elements
Here’s what will be offered through this program
The goal of having these students to be able to dual enroll in these key STEM-based courses will enable students to earn college credits toward a program certificate leading to potential STEM degrees like Computer Information Systems, Computer Information Technology, and Information Security and Intelligence (Cybersecurity/Cloud Computing), all while still being in high school.
Additional STEM grants can be found here:- https://www.grantwatch.com/cat/36/technology-grants.html