Non Technical Summary
Many undergraduate and professional animal and veterinary science students in the United States come from non-rural, non-farm backgrounds. In order to gain exposure to animal production, students must primarily rely on their course and laboratory work within their degree programs. While courses often incorporate limited access to university and commercial farms, there are a number of challenges (i.e. funding, biosecurity, large class sizes) that prevent students from gaining adequate farm exposure and experience solving common animal-related challenges. The purpose of this proposal is to investigate an additional mechanism for students to gain on-farm experience through the use of virtual reality (VR) modules focusing on swine and dairy production systems and common welfare issues they would likely come across while working in the livestock industry.The objectives are as follows:Create, develop and evaluate the use of VR modules in an entry-level freshman course to increase student interest and understanding of swine and dairy production systems.Create, develop and evaluate the use of VR-based animal welfare case studies that can be introduced in upper-level animal welfare, capstone production, or first-year graduate/veterinary courses.Provide training opportunities for animal science-related faculty at other U.S. institutions to utilize and assess the success of the VR modules in their own classrooms.To accomplish these objectives, the primary investigators on this study will utilize a multi-collaborator, multi-university and private business approach to develop, utilize and evaluate whether VR could be a useful tool for preparing undergraduate students for a future in animal agriculture.
Animal Health Component
Research Effort Categories
Goals / Objectives
The long-term goals of this project are to 1) increase student interest in pursuing and completing animal agricultural-related degrees and, 2) to improve student understanding of on-farm animal welfare by giving students opportunities to apply their knowledge and practice the critical thinking skills needed to mitigate common farm animal welfare challenges. To achieve this, we have three specific objectives:Objective 1: Create, develop and evaluate the use of VR modules in an entry-level freshman course to increase student interest and understanding of swine and dairy production systems.Objective 2: Create, develop and evaluate the use of VR-based animal welfare case studies that can be introduced in upper-level animal welfare, capstone production, or first-year graduate/veterinary courses.Objective 3: Provide training opportunities for animal science-related faculty at other U.S. institutions to utilize and assess the success of the VR modules in their own classrooms.
Objective 1 & 2Virtual reality-based lessons focused on swine and dairy production systems will be created to provide students an opportunity to observe U.S. production norms and solve common swine or dairy welfare challenges. The lessons will be broken down into four modules as follows:Module 1: Introductory Swine Production ExperienceModule 2: Introductory Dairy Production ExperienceModule 3: Advanced Swine Welfare Problem Solving ModuleModule 4: Advanced Dairy Welfare Problem Solving ModuleEach module will be created in collaboration with Be More Colorful, LLC, a company located in Fargo, ND that specializes in providing "real-world virtual reality solutions" for a number of industries through the development of 360° and virtual reality videos and imagery. The proposed modules will be hosted and easily accessible for users via a password protected internet platform for use with a standard VR headset, smartphone and VR mini-glasses, or a computer desktop.The proposed virtual reality modules are different from video and photo animal facility tours. Instead of watching the tour on a stationary screen, the experience allows a user to fully immerse themselves into the production facility. With the 360° image capture design of the camera, the user can rotate in any direction to view uninterrupted video and imagery, and hear the sounds occurring in the facility as if they were standing in the room. Additionally, users are given the ability to move throughout the facility at their will, which provides another level of user interaction and control compared to standard video and photo tours.Overview of the proposed VR modulesAll modules will consist of an immersible (360°) video component, which will allow the student user to observe the facilities "in action," followed by immersible key still-scenes within the facilities where student users can continue to explore the facility and interact with the informational and case study components of the modules (see descriptions below).Module 1 Intended Audience: Lower-division animal science studentsDescription of Module: The Introductory Swine Production Experience module will provide users with a fully immersible virtual tour of one commercial-type breeding facility and one wean-to-finish production facility. While the tour content will consist of two separate facilities (farrow-to-finish facilities are no longer common in U.S. commercial swine production), the tour within the module will be seamless while still noting the separate locations (i.e. it will not require loading of separate VR files for users to view all of Module 1). Within each swine facility, users will have the option to visit various rooms used during the production process. These include a farrowing room with traditional farrowing stalls and a gestation room with group-housed sows (breeding farm), a nursery used to house weaned piglets, a grow-finish room, and a loading area for loading market-ready pigs onto a truck trailer (wean-to-finish facility). Following the fully immersible video components and once users are viewing the fully immersible key still-scenes, they will have the opportunity to select "hotspot" interactive overlays that, if selected by the user, provide a description of the specific phase of production occurring in the room and a focus on the animals that are being housed. Additionally, a description of common husbandry procedures and common challenges specific to that phase of production will be provided for users. Users of this module will not be given case study interactive components like the advanced modules (see advanced module description for details).Module 2Intended Audience: Lower-division animal science studentsDescription of Module: The Introductory Dairy Production Experience module will provide users with a fully immersible, virtual tour of a commercial type dairy production system. Users will have the option to visit one dairy operation's facilities used throughout the production process. Following the fully-immersible video component of the modules and once users are viewing the fully-immersible key still-scenes, they will have the opportunity to select "hotspot" interactive overlays that, if selected by the user, provide a written description for each specific phase of production and the relevant animals being housed. Additionally, a description of common husbandry procedures and common challenges specific to that phase of production will be provided for users. Module users will not be given case study interactive components like the advanced modules (see advanced module description for details).Modules 3 &4Intended Audience: Upper-division animal science students and first year professional/ veterinary studentsDescription of Module: The Advanced Swine & Dairy Welfare Problem Solving modules will utilize the same facilities used in the introductory production experience modules (1 & 2). However, they will target upper-division animal science and first year professional or veterinary students who have previous knowledge of livestock production systems and are familiar with the various on-farm challenges faced by producers. Accordingly, these modules will incorporate a "choose your own adventure"-type design, where the video and key still-scene components within each facility will provide context and information surrounding animal welfare challenges that need to be solved by the user. After viewing the informational content, the user will be given different potential options that could be pursued to solve the animal welfare challenges in question. In addition to these specific welfare challenges within each facility or room, an additional scenario will focus on maintaining proper site biosecurity. While touring the different facilities and rooms, the user will have the opportunity to identify facility strengths and needs for maintaining efficient site biosecurity. The intent of these case studies will be to stimulate discussion between students and instructors that focus on developing realistic plans of action that could be applied in the production setting. To aid the instructors in their discussion, a "teaching guide" will be made available and will contain useful information regarding different consequences (both positive and negative) of each option presented as a potential remedy for the different welfare challenges.Following the development of modules, their effectiveness will be evaluated in undergraduate and veterinary classrooms and student focus groups at the University of Missouri-Columbia, North Dakota State University, and the Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine. Up to 300 undergraduate (approximately 75 lower-division and 75 upper division students per undergraduate institution) and 100 first-year veterinary students (Texas-Tech only) will be invited to participate in data collection.Objective 3 Up to 20 faculty and staff from other U.S. institutions will be recruited at national conferences to participate in training regarding how to use and implement the VR modules in their classrooms. During the training sessions, faculty will experience the VR system and will be given a teaching guide. The teaching guide will include further details related to the case study to assist with instruction including possible answers and explanations. The faculty will be asked to implement the VR modules into their own courses within 6 months of training and complete follow-up surveys regarding ease of use, how well the modules fit within their own teaching missions, likelihood of continued use, and overall student learning and engagement impressions. Faculty provided feedback will be used to make any necessary changes to the modules and will be made available in a publication. The final publication will provide a link to the modules for future use in the classroom for all faculty.