Doing more with less, and immersing learners in virtual reality 3D learning labs, can improve knowledge retention and educational resilience

To create a more dynamic and interactive learning environment where students can develop critical skills to thrive in the real world, the Singapore Polytechnic School of Chemical & Life Sciences (CLS) employs hybrid learning methodologies to empower students of selected diplomas and a new “Common Science Programme” (CSP).

In a hybrid-learning environment, technology plays a critical role in enabling remote learning and assessment. For example, holographic technology allows students to interact with virtual representations of physical lab instruments, science concepts, and learning scenarios. These interactive simulations are critical in helping them acquire industry-relevant knowledge and build confidence in using the instruments and applying the lab processes before competency assessments.

Holographic technology also helps to improve knowledge retention and students across a wide variety of different learning preferences. The sensory, auditory and visual input from the VR simulations provides students with experiences that closely resemble interactions in the real world.

For kinesthetic learners that learn better when they can interact physically with objects, holographic learning allows them to familiarize with the instruments before they enter into a quality assurance/quality control laboratory. In Singapore Polytechnic, this mode of learning also enables students to take greater ownership in their learning without needing to be in physical contact with the equipment in the real world.

The introduction of this technology to its curriculum is part of SP’s ongoing efforts to help its educators do more with less and empower students to learn actively across a hybrid environment. Said Dr. Charmaine Tan Yen Ling, Course Chair, Common Science Programme, School of Chemical & Life Sciences: “Holographic technology tools are very useful in building the confidence of users who are new to analytical instruments. The majority of the users are graduates from secondary school who have never had to perform laboratory work with such complexity. To date, SP has developed a suite of digital solutions for the training of analytical instrumentation. As part of our continual efforts to enhance the learning experience of our students, we have transited from the use of simple e-learning packages to the holographic 3D teaching tool today.”

The hybrid learning system has benefited over 500 CLS learners annually, including mid-career professionals and jobseekers enrolled in pre-employment training and continuing education and training. Employing the HoloLens 2 from Microsoft, the program will be used in other academic courses including Applied Chemistry, Biomedical Science, Food Science & Technology and Perfumery & Cosmetic Science.

With the HoloLens 2, educators can bring textbook science to life effortlessly, and enrich learning curricula with immersive content. Beyond the classroom, this technology allows lecturers to demonstrate extreme parameters and how they affect lab results and data accuracy. Furthermore, the HoloLens packages enable the polytechnic to expand its laboratory lessons beyond physical laboratories to the virtual mixed-reality realm, enabling training that was previously limited by the availability of instruments.

Said Lum Seow Khun, Director, Public Sector Group, Microsoft Singapore: “Equipping the next generation with relevant skills and knowledge is key to ensuring the readiness of our workforce as we focus on closing the gap between skilling and employability. Through partnerships with institutes of higher learning like Singapore Polytechnic, we can help to relentlessly drive innovation and steer Singapore toward broad, inclusive economic growth.”

In future, Singapore Polytechnic plans to create more learning opportunities in the virtual space such as ‘over-the-shoulder coaching’ and e-assessment tools to cater to a wider spectrum of students with different learning needs, as well as to explore the possibilities in how hands-on assessment can be conducted remotely and fairly.