Hinds Community College is a public community college with its main campus in Raymond, Mississippi and branches in Jackson, Pearl, Utica, and Vicksburg. Encompassing Hinds County, Claiborne County, part of Copiah County, Rankin County, and Warren County, the College is staffed by over 700 student-focused faculty that serve over 25,000 students annually with an 18:1 student-to-teacher ratio. The college offers 447 academic courses guaranteed to transfer to Mississippi universities as well as over 70 career and technical program options.
The Workforce Division of Hinds Community College (HCC) aligns community members with local jobs and fulfills training needs for local industry and business partners. Job seekers receive workforce training, assessment/testing, and adult basic and continuing education. Community businesses gain an educated and well-trained workforce flowing out of the Division’s programs. This synergistic relationship strengthens regional commerce and community by helping retain, grow, and attract businesses and industries.
In 2020 HCC joined an expansive development project that would transform a historic building in Vicksburg, Mississippi into a state-of-the-art accelerated technology transfer center. The Sen. Thad Cochran Mississippi Center for Innovation & Technology (MCITy) was scheduled to be fully operational in Spring 2023. The HCC Workforce division agreed to use their space to showcase the rapidly evolving world of eXtended Reality (XR) for education and training, with the goal of opening as soon as possible.
“Our vision was to develop a space that would bring awareness to the use of AR/VR for employee training and put it in the hands of local business and industry, as well as to offer classes in XR content development,” said Workforce Systems Administrator Corey Durham. “Businesses are facing a constant revolving door of employees and they can’t keep up with the training needs. When companies use XR to help prepare workers they conserve resources and reduce turnover.”
With that vision in place, Associate Vice President of Workforce David Creel tasked Durham with determining the technology needed to transform it into the functional HCC Emerging Technologies Training Center
The scope of the plan encompassed four distinct areas. A central demo center would showcase the capabilities of XR for training; this space required a large display that would make visible the modules trainees would experience through their headsets. Three labs would serve as facilities for teaching AR content development and providing specific employee training experiences; these rooms needed interactive displays to facilitate engagement and collaborative learning. All of this hardware needed to be reliable, commercial grade tech capable of meeting the Center’s anticipated high demand.
To source this tech, Durham partnered with Dan Wilkins from technology solutions provider RJ Young.
“Dan is phenomenal at matching the utility of the space and pairing equipment to achieve all the desired outcomes,” said Durham. “I told him what we wanted to accomplish, and he was able to find what we needed.” Wilkins brought in large screen and interactive displays from several manufacturers for Durham to test out. According to Durham, the ViewSonic products clearly stood out from the rest.
“One thing that sold me on the ViewSonic products was the versatility of the equipment – how much we could do with it and how integrated it could be,” he said. “We wanted modularity and integrated products from a sole provider and ViewSonic was the only manufacturer we looked at that had everything we needed.”
The demonstration room called for a large and eye-catching display to draw in visitors and quickly raise awareness for the impact of XR. A 135” ViewSonic LD135-151 Direct View LED display provided this critical focal point. Two 86” ViewSonic® ViewBoard® IFP8662 high-performance 4K touchscreen displays in the back of the room provided additional training and learning stations. The classroom labs required interactivity and the versatility to use the displays vertically for presentations and training, and horizontally as a tabletop for collaborative design development. These rooms were outfitted with the 86” ViewBoard IFP8662 interactive displays mounted on ViewSonic VB-STND-003 motorized trolley carts with 90-degree tilt.
The Hinds Community College Emerging Technologies Training Center opened its doors with a ribbon cutting ceremony December 7, 2022. Shortly thereafter the Workforce Division began hosting its first classes. Interest from local enterprise has been non-stop. Students, trainees and visitors alike are treated to a continuous flow of vibrant, rolling content on the showcase display: from ads and publication outtakes to clips from HCC’s VR training content. “Every day we get interested visitors,” said Durham, “The first thing they say is invariably, ‘Wow!’ We get that over and over. The huge 135-inch ViewSonic display is doing exactly what we wanted – drawing in potential partners and showing them what we do in a dramatic way.” Once they see what we do, Durham added, they ask, ‘What can we do with this? How can we leverage this technology?’ It’s all so new and innovative that it can be hard to wrap your mind around it initially. One of the Center’s first partnerships involved augmenting the Colleges’ Diesel Equipment Technology Program.
“Potential employees tend to envision being covered head-to-toe in grease, which isn’t very appealing, so we partnered with local developers to build a VR experience to show them what this job is really like,” said Durham. “Our VR training lets prospects walk the shop floor and see how clean it is, along with learning how to perform the work. It helps them determine whether this is something they can see themselves doing.”
Students learn how to develop augmented reality content in the Center’s lab spaces, using the 86-inch ViewBoard interactive displays to collaborate and create. Integrated conferencing equipment enables companies to virtually teach extended reality courses, while the ability to cast content onto the screens lets students and instructors easily share content.
“Again, it was this versatility that really drew us to the ViewSonic products. They had all the functionality we needed – the content casting, big screen conferencing capabilities and the mobile cart, not to mention the gorgeous 135-inch display,” said Durham. “The smooth touchscreen response has provided an incredible experience for students working on 3D modelling, especially when using it horizontally like a table. Everything has been ideal.”
This success has been replicated at Hind’s Rankin campus, with a similarly outfitted XR-focused space. “We only had one room to work with, but we packed in as much as we could, using the blueprint we created for the Vicksburg Center.” said Durham. “It has a ViewSonic 135-inch display and the same lab capabilities, with an 86-inch ViewSonic interactive display. It was a relief to see everything come together so well, Durham acknowledged, expressing thanks ViewSonic and RJ Young for their support. Clearly a huge boon to the region, the HCC Emerging Technologies Training Center provides exactly the mutually beneficial relationship among students, businesses and workforce trainees that is at the heart of the Workforce Division’s mission.
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