UO researchers help create virtual reality diversity training

Illustration of person with VR goggles

College of Education faculty members Heather McClure and Dane Ramshaw have partnered with Shift Bias, a virtual reality training development company, to create a new curriculum for diversity, equity and inclusion training.

“The course is augmented with an immersive, lifelike virtual reality experience that guides the learner to discover disparities and inequities in action and to develop the motivation to change behaviors and, thus, outcomes,” McClure said.

Participants begin with an online equity assessment that establishes a knowledge baseline to begin learning from. Once the assessment is complete, participants can move on to the course curriculum, which is designed to be completed in eight weeks. It is approximately 3½hours long, broken up into 15-minute intervals. The VR practice scenario occurs in week seven of the training.

“The course is designed to help education professionals on their journey towards understanding and embracing equal justice and belonging, and achieving equitable student outcomes,” McClure said.

McClure worked with Shift Bias to help generate ideas for the curriculum and provide feedback on content from other contributors. Ramshaw set up the technology infrastructure of the program to ensure the content could be delivered at a large scale.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has driven the demand and understanding of virtual reality forward by years, and there is now a greater need for training using this technology,” said Shift Bias founder Wendy Morgan, a former College of Education program manager. “We have already developed a five-course series to train in infection prevention specific to COVID-19.”

A study by PwC, the brand name for PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that learning through virtual reality leaves participants 275 percent more confident in applying learned skills after the training and that programs are completed four times faster than they would be in traditional classroom settings.  

The diversity, equity and inclusion training has already received interest from organizations across the United States. The World Health Organization expressed interest in deploying the training to developing nations, and contracts currently exist with The University of Pennsylvania, a leadership group convened by Lane Workforce Partnership, and other workforce boards across Oregon.

Learn more about how Shift Bias is using virtual reality to change the way people learn on the company’s website

—By Meghan Mortensen, College of Education