INTERACTIVE and virtual technologies can help transform rural learning in Northern Ireland, a world-leading expert has told a packed South West College (SWC) in Omagh.
John Fillwalk, Director of the acclaimed Institute for Digital Intermedia Arts at Ball State University in Indiana, delivered a two-day workshop on virtual worlds and education as part of the SWC strategy to increase access to online classrooms and learning.
His talk addressed central themes in the Project 10, a higher education initiative involving colleges and universities, and The SMART Region collaboration between SWC and the Western Health and Social Care Trust.
Mr Fillwalk, an associate professor in electronic art, specialises in the design of virtual, immersive and Interactive environments and is a world-leading authority on the use of multiple cutting-edge media and design approaches.
Michael McAlister, SWC Deputy Director, said:
“South West College is at the forefront of Virtual Learning Technologies in Northern Ireland, and it is through our strong reputation in the sector that we have been fortunate to attract such an eminent speaker as John Fillwalk.
“John has travelled to be with us to share his expertise in relation to virtual worlds and to consider applications for our curriculum delivery as we embark on the roll out of Project 10 – (Higher Education Strategy NI) and the SMART Region initiative with the Western Health and Social Care Trust and others.”
Nicholas O’Shiel, on behalf of the SMART Region, welcomed the South West College virtualisation immersive learning initiative. He said:
“The initiative will help to ensure the development of the area as a Smart Region, particularly given its focus on online learning and education in a rural context.”
The audience for the workshops included senior representatives from the Department for Employment and Learning; University of Ulster; the Western Health and Social Care Trust; InvestNI; Direct Aid for Africa and staff and students from South West College.
John’s reputation in the field of Virtualisation is exemplary, with Professor Adam Nash the Director, Australian Centre of Visual Art, describing him as ‘One of the most innovative and challenging practitioners working in virtual environments in the world today. His work bridging virtual and material environments are especially compelling and constitute an internationally important contribution to this field. It is eminently clear that John is working to combine relevant, practical notions of technological endeavour with the intellectual rigor required to ensure a lasting and genuine impact on current generations of learners, whether this involves “virtual education”, distance learning or conventional face to face university learning.”