New major in virtual reality and game development will prepare students to use emerging technologies for communications

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Ohio University is now offering a new undergraduate major starting this fall in Virtual Reality and Game Development (VRGD). The VRGD program will teach students to use emerging technologies like virtual reality and digital games specifically for communication purposes, while emphasizing ethical and social improvements.

The major is hosted at the Scripps College of Communication, OHIO at the J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies. The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved the creation of the program at its April 2021 meeting, and the program recently received approval from the State of Ohio and the Higher Learning Commission.

The new VRGD major builds on the investment in games and interactive technology research that has been in place at OHIO for over 15 years. It started with the university’s first major in game development, Digital Media: Special Effects, Games and Animation, and continues with a nationwide reputation in the field. Animationcareerreview.com ranks OHIO as the best augmented / virtual reality college in the state for 2021.

“We expect that as the requirements for delivering very high-quality immersive experiences increase, our students will be in a strong position to understand not only cutting-edge technologies in VR / AR and game development, but also how the underlying communication technology could be used, “said Dr. Julio Aráuz, associate professor and principal of the McClure School.” This makes our VRGD program unique because all students will have access to information networks and laboratory environments of the Internet of Things, which will give them the opportunity to create distinctive experiences. ”

The VRGD program will require a student to minor in business or communication studies. In addition to virtual reality and game design courses, elective courses will teach students how these technologies work within larger information network systems.

“Students in the program will take courses in the fundamentals of networking and scripting technology. This will allow them to acquire a better ability to design solutions that efficiently use resources to deliver high quality experiences, ”said Aráuz.

VRGD students will also have access to the Immersive Design and Games Research Laboratory (GRID) facilities, which are available to all students of Scripps College, regardless of their major. This provides a range of technological learning opportunities for students.

A student stands in a classroom in front of a whiteboard wearing a VR headset.  What the student sees through the headphones is displayed on a television set above the whiteboard.
Photo courtesy of J. Warren McClure School of Emerging Communication Technologies

“Selected spaces are available for VRGD students from day one,” said John Bowditch, Associate Professor and Director of the GRID Lab. “Each student will have access to our Motion Lab, XR Lab, cine-VR Labs, GRID Lab Studios (video, audio, VR, augmented reality and game equipment cashier room) and the Mixed Reality Course (VR obstacle course ). We want our students to take full advantage of the GRID Lab from their first day of school.

Students in the major will learn to use emerging technologies for social improvement in educational, government, corporate, entrepreneurial and entertainment venues.

The demand for future workers with experience in virtual reality and game development is increasing. The US games market, considered the second in the world behind China, is valued between $ 25.1 billion and $ 43.4 billion, according to sources.

There has also been an increase in demand for training in games and interactive media. Hired.com found that 75% of software engineers surveyed predicted their own industries would feel the effects of virtual reality and augmented reality, with almost half of them saying it would be a skill they would like to learn.

Former McClure School alumni are employed across the United States, Bowditch noted, at leading companies such as The Walt Disney Company and Imagineering, EA, Ubisoft, Unity, Bungie, Apple, Sony Santa Monica, Google and Activision / Blizzard.

Students currently enrolled in the Major in Games and Animation offered by the School of Media Arts and Studies (MDIA) will be able to complete their study program. Starting in fall 2022, an Animation major will be offered exclusively through MDIA, while all game-related elements are available through the VRGD major.

“While the roots of this program stem from the play track of the Games and Animation major at the School of Media Arts and Studies, the VRGD major is more technical,” Bowditch said. “Each student will take virtual reality and game development courses that will prepare them for technical and production jobs after graduation.”


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