Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Image: A virtual reality view of the Pappajohn Business Building courtyard.


The Tippie College of Business has expanded its presence to the metaverse with a new virtual space that will prepare the college for the future of education and research.

“Technology is rapidly changing both business and education, so we need to offer the kind of educational and research resources that prepare our graduates to thrive in a business world where technology changes seemingly by the minute, and our scholars work at the cutting edge,” said Amy Kristof-Brown, dean of the Tippie College of Business. “Augmented and virtual reality are two of those technologies, and our digital world will help prepare our students to succeed using those disruptors.”

The virtual world features interiors and exteriors of the Pappajohn Business Building and exteriors of many of its campus neighbors, including the Pomerantz Career Center, Iowa Memorial Union, the Main Library, the Pentacrest, and the T. Anne Cleary Walkway. It was dedicated with a virtual ribbon cutting Thursday, April 6, attended by University of Iowa President Barbara Wilson, Iowa State Senate Minority Leader Zach Wahls and State Representative Carter Nordman, as well as Steve Grubbs, CEO of VictoryXR, the Davenport-based company that partnered with the college to build the virtual space. All attended via avatar.   

Jim Chaffee, chief operations officer for the Tippie College of Business, said people using virtual reality headsets will be able to get a full three-dimensional experience of the building and nearby parts of campus.

“They can come in and walk the halls, maybe sit in on a class, as if they’re right here with us,” he said.

Chaffee said the digital twin is already being used in an MBA class about business technology and an undergraduate business analytics course about visualizing and communicating data. More classes will be added as faculty develop new ways to take advantage of the virtual space, he said. The virtual campus can also be used as a recruiting tool, as admissions can host virtual visits for interested students from around the world.

“The digital world will allow us to expand those offerings in new and innovative ways so we can offer students the kind of educational experiences they can’t get anywhere else,” Chaffee said.

Barrett Thomas, senior associate dean, said the virtual college is another example of Tippie embracing new technologies like virtual reality and artificial intelligence for its teaching and research. He said the college has used those types of advanced tools for research to build an accident prediction model with the Iowa Department of Transportation, create an optimization model for food delivery businesses, and designed a machine learning algorithm to develop individualized dosing protocols for medication.

“We never know what the next groundbreaking technology will be, and this gives us the chance to experiment with virtual reality and develop new ways to use it most effectively,” said Thomas. “It shows the Tippie College of Business and the University of Iowa are forward thinking and embracing future technologies.”

The college partnered with Victory XR, a Davenport based firm that builds virtual and augmented reality tools for higher education institutions, to create the digital twin. To access the space, download the Engage VR platform app and navigate to the Victory XR portal.

Media contact: Tom Snee, 319-384-0010 (o); 319-541-8434 (c);