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OU secures £5.8m to build extended reality studio

Virtual reality setting showing three scans of the human body

The Open University (OU) has secured funding of £5.8m from the Office for Students (OfS) to develop extended reality studios, Open XR Studios, to expand its teaching and learning with augmented and virtual reality.

Open XR Studios will feature state-of-the-art equipment to capture, reproduce and render 4D imagery. It will deliver immersive and reality-embedded learning to students in their homes, which will enable the OU to create authentic contexts for skills development.

Tim Blackman, Vice Chancellor at the OU, commented:

 “The Open XR Studios and reality-based learning are the next logical place for The Open University to take digital education. This is a very exciting and innovative venture for us, and we hope it will lead to significant collaboration opportunities within the education sector and more widely with public and private sectors.”

The capital funding has been awarded as part of a £432 million investment by the Office for Students into new buildings, facilities and equipment for universities and colleges across England. The OU is one of the institutions to receive the full award of £5.8million.

The technology will be applied first to nursing, science and sport, where students will be able to engage with practice scenarios in high-risk situations that would otherwise be unavailable, such as patient simulation or gaining access to impossible-to-reach learning environments, for example the heart of a volcano.

The studio will also serve as a research platform to better understand how to engage students across a range of extended reality learning scenarios. This will create partnership opportunities with the wider higher education sector, placing the OU at the forefront of utilising these technologies in a responsible and equitable manner.

Tim Seal, Head of Future Learning for the Faculty of WELS added: 

"The Open University has long been at the forefront of providing equitable access for diverse learning needs and continues to innovate in the utilisation of new technologies for teaching and learning. Building on this with respect to extended reality is an exciting time in which we hope to realise the potential of these technologies in a truly dynamic way, to the benefit of all students across the sector. This investment will enable us to make significant strides in understanding and implementing pedagogies that will shape the future of learning."

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