Associate Professor Jamie Pearson and Instructional Technologist Christopher Beeson from North Carolina State University’s College of Education have collaborated to enhance special education courses. Their focus has been on preparing future teachers for individualized education program (IEP) meetings, a critical aspect often overlooked in general education. The innovative approach using virtual reality (VR) and PlayPosit (a WeVideo product) in the course “Teaching Exceptional Students in the Mainstream Classroom” (ECI 416) led them to Pearson and Beeson’s recognition in North Carolina State’s Delta News.
- Immersive experience: Creating a realistic and immersive simulation of IEP meetings for future general education teachers.
- Multifaceted learning approach: Moving beyond traditional theoretical methods to provide a more comprehensive and engaging learning experience.
- Practical skills: Ensuring future teachers have the skills required to teach students with disabilities and are familiar with the IEP.
- Scalable: With nearly 100 students enrolled in ECI 416 on an annual basis, providing IEP simulations with VR and PlayPosit provides scalability for all students to participate in the simulation.
Pearson and Beeson began by writing a script for a realistic IEP meeting based on their special education experience. They hired actors for authenticity and filmed the meetings in 360-degree VR to offer an immersive experience with a VR headset (the initial program used an Oculus Go). In addition to the VR experience, they incorporated PlayPosit to provide an interactive and reflective learning environment. This combination allowed learners to critically engage with the content and practice decision-making in simulated scenarios.
Future teachers enrolled in ECI 416 would experience a 20-minute simulated IEP in a fully immersed VR setting. While in the VR headset, they would have the opportunity to sit virtually in an IEP along with the IEP team, which consists of a general education teacher, special education teacher, case manager, parents, an IEP facilitator, and an administrator. With the VR headset, the future teacher would have a 360-degree view of the IEP meeting and the opportunity to observe facial expressions and body language in addition to the conversations taking place, thus making keen observations beyond what could be read about or observed in a traditional film.
After experiencing the IEP in a VR setting, students view the same 360 video in PlayPosit. While in PlayPosit, learners reflect on their experience in VR through bulbs (PlayPosit’s word for interactive videos) and consider their reactions while virtually attending the meeting.
- Effective immersive IEP experience: Learners engaged with the VR sessions and the interactive 360 video in PlayPosit, indicating a successful implementation of an immersive IEP meeting simulation.
- Multifaceted learning approach validated: The combination of VR and PlayPosit enhanced learner engagement and understanding, proving the success of a multifaceted teaching approach.
- Practical IEP skills: Feedback highlighted learners’ improved understanding and preparedness for real-world IEP meetings, showing that the course effectively imparted practical skills.
- Successful outreach to a large cohort: Positive responses from two cohorts of learners demonstrated the approach’s scalability and effectiveness in addressing the needs of a large student population.
While the initial focus in the educational technology integrations was on the VR experience, the success of PlayPosit shifted the attention toward its potential and application. The positive learner feedback and the platform’s versatility inspired Pearson and Beeson to explore further applications and assist other institutions in adopting similar educational strategies.