Into the Metaverse
Classroom Innovation:Augmented and Virtual Reality

Classroom Innovation:
Augmented and Virtual Reality

As the world changes faster than ever, the faculty leads in far-sighted planning and nimble action. Responsiveness during COVID-19 was a classic example. Classrooms were shuttered. Learning moved online.

Two programs jumped into action, introducing new learning modalities through virtual and augmented reality. Students now had a path back to hands-on experiences so critical to science.

Enter the virtual hospital

Back in 2017, physics professor Dr. Jahangir (Jahan) Tavakkoli was already re-imaging ways for students to experience high-tech medical equipment — without the cost and logistical challenges of visits to local teaching hospitals.

By 2019, Dr. Tavakkoli had partnered with a virtual reality (VR) medical equipment company to develop a multi-room virtual hospital platform. Coincidentally, rollout arrived just in time for the pandemic lockdown.

Operating with sophisticated medical equipment, such as


Medical Resonance Imaging: a non-invasive imaging technology that produces 3-D anatomical images

, a


Medical Linear Accelerator: an external beam radiation therapy device for cancer treatments

, X-ray and ultrasound systems in a VR hospital environment, students administer simulated imaging or treatment sessions on animated virtual patients and grasp the basics of operation of these devices in a hospital setting.

Science in the palm of your hand

In fall 2020, the Ryerson Augmented Learning Experience (RALE) platform began bringing holographic microscopes and pipettes into the homes of students. No complicated headsets; no expensive equipment. Just simulations beamed out from smartphones and tablets.

The innovation was designed for immersive, collaborative and fun learning experiences in biology and chemistry. During beta testing, the experiences proved so realistic that Dean David Cramb watched excited students reach out to grab the holographic objects.

To date, RALE has been used in 15 courses, with 40 laboratory modules delivered to over 1000 undergraduate students in biology, chemistry, biomedical sciences and chemical engineering. The platform’s next iteration is already under way after TMU and development partner NexTech AR received $150,000 through the Ontario government’s $50 million Virtual Learning Strategy. Potential exists for expanding the innovation to other post-secondary institutions in Canada and globally.

A legacy of learning and giving

The RALE platform was made possible in partnership with augmented reality firm Nextech AR. The company was founded by Paul Duffy, a proud TMU alumnus (Applied Computer Science ’89). After graduating, Duffy became a successful serial tech entrepreneur. But he’s never forgotten his TMU roots, returning frequently to interact with professors, partnering on the RALE platform, and showing tremendous generosity. The university is grateful for the Duffy family’s recent $1 million gift which, in part, supports the future Science Discovery Complex to be built 202 Jarvis Street.