Immersive technologies provide training options for engineering students

Wyatt Ritchie works on capturing machine shop equipment

Berks sophomore Wyatt Ritchie works with the equipment in the campus machine shop to implement it into the 360-degree videos.

Credit: Marietta Scanlon

READING, Pa. — Providing hands-on training options can be critical for student learning, but traveling to training sites is not always an option. Immersive technologies are helping to eliminate that roadblock for engineering students at Penn State Berks.

This summer, Marietta Scanlon, lecturer of engineering at the Berks campus, and sophomore Wyatt Ritchie collaborated to create 360-degree videos for a course to serve both as an introduction to principles in Scanlon’s IET 101 Manufacturing Materials, Processes and Laboratory course and provide information about specific equipment in the campus machine shop.

“The traditional way of learning is to take notes and look at pictures of how things work, which does get the point across but doesn't provide a deep understanding and spark interest,” said Ritchie, who has been creating 360-degree videos for an industrial engineering technology (IET) course. He worked on this project as part of the multi-campus Research Experience for Undergraduates summer program. “Using this kind of technology does though, which is why I refer to a certain quote that I think explains how this technology provides a greater advantage over traditional ways of learning: ‘I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.’”

Scanlon said the 360-degree videos will be used toward the end of fall semester to supplement her teaching and the regular shop training that is provided in later semesters, sometimes not until students’ senior year. Scanlon said the videos could also be used in other manufacturing courses.

Ryan Wetzel, manager of creative learning initiatives within Penn State Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), helped Ritchie determine the best use of the 360-degree videos and navigate Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing.

“Using immersive technologies like 360-degree video to complete coursework helps students to examine course content from several perspectives,” Wetzel explained. “Because the camera operates as a stand-in for the audience, and the audience can look anywhere at any time, students must consider the value of their location, the actions taking place, and how to direct attention. This leads to an intimate understanding of the course content and becomes invaluable as a teaching tool.”

Wyatt Ritchie shows work on computer to Marietta Scanlon

Ritchie shows Scanlon his work with the 360-degree videos.

Credit: Hunter Kruppenbach

The next step will be to move forward with virtual reality training. Scanlon said Ritchie will be familiarizing himself with the software this fall, then begin creating training for a simple piece of machine shop equipment. Scanlon said she has purchased ten virtual reality headsets for approximately 48 students to share in her two class sections of IET 101.

After the students use the immersive technologies, Scanlon said she will evaluate their effectiveness in enhancing students’ learning through assessments, and compare results to results of a control group that watches traditional videos.

Her long-term goal is to create 360-degree videos for the equipment in the campus’ downtown makerspace in the Langan LaunchBox. The additional Berks campus space was made possible thanks to an Invent Penn State grant and is open to both students and the local community.

Immersive technologies are being explored across Penn State to evaluate their impact on transforming education.

“Penn State is just beginning to explore the potential for immersive technologies to change higher education,” Wetzel said. “TLT is opening a new lab this fall, the Immersive Technologies Lab, to provide opportunities for faculty and students to examine how 360-degree video, virtual reality and mixed reality can evolve our understanding of what it means to be a creator, a maker, a teacher and a learner.”

Adobe Premiere Pro is now available free of charge to all Penn State students. To learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud, visit