A peek inside

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “show don’t tell,” you know the “show” part is sometimes a challenge.

This can be especially true when trying to explain how the human body works – of course, that’s only if you don’t have brand new science and virtual reality labs, like Muscatine Community College recently added.

This fall the college wrapped up renovations on two new labs, each with state-of-the-art technology. One is a science lab, furnished with new equipment and eBeam – an interactive whiteboard system.

“With eBeam I can better identify and label anatomical structures by writing directly on the screen,” said Biology Instructor Marie Ripslinger- Atwater. “Anything I draw or write with eBeam can be saved and provided to students.”

This lab is currently being used for everything from biology to agriculture to vet tech courses. Meanwhile, a new virtual reality lab is housed next door. The VR lab boasts one big classroom and four individual rooms, each equipped with a big TV screen and HTC Vive VR headset with controllers.

“Right now, I have software called 3D Organon Anatomy that will allow a student to explore any of the body systems in intricate detail,” said Ripslinger-Atwater.

“I did a demo in which I was able to see red blood cells floating through the blood. Students could visualize the process of blood clotting in action, and even go inside an individual cell to see the activity.”


Being able to explore the human body by simply “going inside” is not only fun, but it also enables students to engage with what they’re learning in a very memorable way. Ripslinger-Atwater thinks this new way of teaching has the potential to provide big benefits for students.

“I believe students will have an easier time grasping some of the more complex anatomy (structure) and physiology (function)… visual learners especially!” she said.

The best part, is that even though there are only four headsets, the big screens enable everyone to participate.

“They can quiz themselves and also each other because students in the room can see the same images on the screen without the VR headset.”

While the headsets are being used in science courses for now, MCC Dean of Instruction Jeremy Pickard said they can be used for just about any class.

Instructor using headset

“There are 100 things you can do and visit,” he said. “There are programs you can use for astronomy, history, world geography, or health science classes, there are lots of possibilities.”

With the future use limitless, it’ll be exciting to see what new lesson plans MCC instructors will come up with next!

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