Emerging Technology Planning Assignment: Education Through Alternate Realities

By Christopher Dineson on April 15, 2020

Cabrillo College Library in Aptos, CA


When Professor Stephens assigned an investigation of emerging technology which could enhance libraries and information centers’ user experience, I immediately thought of “mixed reality” (MR). Out of all the innovations that libraries have embraced today, this is the most exciting and, I will argue, the most valuable and widely applicable in both public and academic libraries such as the one at Cabrillo Community College in Aptos, California. MR is the combination of “augmented reality” (AR) and “virtual reality” (VR). AR generates a virtual 3D layout within interactive holograms over the real-world landscape and VR encapsulates users within a virtual 3D environment completely separate from the real one. Considered together or independently, these extra-reality synthesizers provide unprecedented modes of learning, teaching, and social bonding remotely or in-person, in groups or by oneself, in real time or asynchronously. Health- and medical science libraries such as the Augmentarium at the University of Maryland for surgery training and Case Western’s holographic medical anatomy (Lessick et al., 2017) signal a committed and enthusiastic (these aren’t synonyms) evolution in health science education taking place in both libraries and classrooms, as well as in public or at home, as a movement in education towards global synthesized reality omnipresence.  

Augmentarium, University of Maryland

Purpose and Benefits

After reading research and shopping around amazon, I’m not surprised that everyone from kids at home playing video games to medical students modeling surgery share a novel passion for this new technology. Event though, their textbook technolust is naïve to the potential real-world solutions that synthesized alternate reality tech could leverage (Stephens, 2004), their enthusiasm and commitment for and will escalate these tools into a stratospheric cultural and social asset. 

MR technology has the potential to augment and significantly strengthen medical science library education; surgery training and general anatomy lessons which would be otherwise cost-prohibitive and physically — in the real world of “stuff” we can touch – impossible to include in a syllabus, in one room, at one time, and done more than once (once you cut a cadaver, you cannot “re-cut” in repetition, nor can you use simulation dolls in the same way)…these would now be available for infinite digital repetitions at much lower prices than doll and cadaver incur. MR in medical libraries will best any “real life” surgery lesson, save for actual surgery performed on living humans, in cost, scale, re-usability, adaptability or upgrade factor, and perhaps even efficacy as the technology rapidly evolves. This is to say nothing of the safety protocols, maintenance, and clean-up (yes, cadavers are high maintenance and expire relatively early considering their considerable cost and scarcity) and dolls are also expensive, wear out, loose relevancy as technologies evolve, and require physical space to use and store. MR in health science centers will undoubtedly lead to more lives saved as physical education materials are phased out by virtual ones. It makes sense to perpetuate the MR educational systems through both health science libraries and programs. And the lowest common denominator in college education in the US is our community college network of schools which, for a considerable population of Americans, our front-line for training healthcare professionals. Among these are colleges such as Cabrillo which are special in that they offer health science classes but also a specific nursing program for LVN and transfer nursing students.

 Description of Community you wish to engage:

I intend to engage healthcare learning centers which includes health and medical libraries, surgery training centers, and general human biology courses (note: this program is designed to expand and scale into all physical science education). I want to begin with the Cabrillo Community College library and Nursing Program classrooms in Aptos, California. 

Action Brief Statement:

For Staff:

I intend to convince Cabrillo College’s library administrators that by embracing MR they will transform their institutions’ learning experience by partnering with their clinicians, faculty, researchers, and students to leverage the use of MR which will scale the quality and quantity of better trained and abled health care professionals because training costs money and virtual simulations cost less, enthusiasm amongst students and faculty drives better education which better prepares new healthcare professionals, and unlike practice dolls and textbooks, MR experiences are, like their users (Stephens, 2018), hyperlinks which perform as a connection hub which infinitely expands today’s library resources and it’s a libraries’ responsibility to focus on their connection management as much as their collection management (arguably, more so [Bohyun, 2012]). 

 For Patrons:

Convince students and other users that by participating in MR health sciences education they will learn exponentially more from a hyperlinked collective experience which will optimize their practical skills and learning retention while relieving them of the cumbersome and less-effective  physical learning supplements and tools because library learning today is as much digital as it used to be physical. 

Augmentarium, University of Maryland

Goals/Objectives for Technology or Service:

1. Expand student learning, faculty teaching, and librarian training in the health sciences.

2. Facilitate the creation, transmission, and socialization of knowledge between STEM students via MR as hyperlink hub.

3. Promote STEM principals in our communities by offering MR health science learning resources to both students and library patrons. 

4. Encourage the exposure to and use of existing supplemental analogue education materials by attracting health science students into the library for MR training and education.  

5. Increase awareness of the library’s greater range of mobile digital resources by hyperlinking them to MR lessons. 

6. Demonstrate the value of the library as a digital maker space within a physical one. 

7. Educate better to save more lives: students learn faster, remember more, do better, and care more using MR.

Augmentarium, University of Maryland

Evidence and Resources to support Technology or Service: (URLS, articles to help guide you)


Anderson, P. (2019). From enhanced collaborations to space advancements: technologies to bring libraries (and librarians) full circle and into the future

Carol, D. (2019) Hololens and Vive Pro: Virtual Reality Headsets

Johnson, L., Adams Becker ,S., Cummins, M., Estrada, V., Freeman, A., Hall, C. (2016, June). The New Media Consortium and The Educause Learning Initiative

 Lessick, S., and Kraft, M. (2017). Facing Reality: The Growth of Virtual Reality and Health Science Libraries.

Patterson, B., Casucci, T., Hull, B.E., Lombardo, N. (2018) Library as the Technology Hub for the Health Sciences

Examples at other libraries

Brigham Young University Physiological Sciences and Life Sciences Libraries. (2020). Virtual Reality: A Survey of Use at an Academic Library 

Dyer, E., Swartzlander, B.J., Gugliucci, M. R. (2918) Using virtual reality in medical education to teach empathy

University of Maryland (2015) Augmentarium

Augmentarium, University of Maryland

Mission, Guidelines, and Policy related to Technology or Service: Introducing any new service or resource to Cabrillo College’s library or the Robert E. Swenson Library, must adhere to said policies as it coordinates with their nursing program. As a differently abled person myself, I know how important it will be to also coordinate MR roll-out and teaching with Cabrillo’s Accessibility Support Center (ASC) to ensure the maximum and best available opportunities for students and patrons of all walks of life. Cabrillo’s library mission statement welcomes not only students by the general public, so long as they respect its resources and services: “Cabrillo library patrons will be able to successfully use the library’s physical and electronic services, information tools, and resources, to find and evaluate information, and accomplish academic endeavors in the pursuit of formal and informal learning.” As with any school today, I would ideally like to add to this statement by assuring students that the library is a safe space where they may feel comfortable using MR systems which, during use, leave users essentially “sensory blind” to the atmosphere and those around them while using the technology. And to be fair, I would expect that any MR users who break or steal the technology from or in the library be fined according to the cost of the loss. This technology is not inexpensive enough yet to be regularly replaced; every system broken or stolen is a system that other students and patrons won’t be able to experience. This additional policy of misconduct will allow for accidental damage. Lastly, because this is a very new technology, it should be subject to frequent review which should inform library and nursing classroom policies going forward.  

Funding Considerations for this Technology or Service: While some academic libraries and health science departments enjoy considerable private donation and state operations and resource support, Cabrillo College is a community college in California which is subject to tight budgetary management. Fortunately, because MR resources will be shared by the library and the nursing program, it should expect a combined funding and allocation strategy from central administration planning. This may mean twice the funding for the technology, or better still, in excess of twice the would-be budget by virtue of the cross-departmental need. MR will become a larger and more important asset to the school which should accommodate it accordingly. 

MR is expensive, however. But so were personal computers in the 1980’s. What happened then is already happening now, if more specifically. And rather than Apple supporting American elementary schools with computers, Microsoft is supporting a plethora of technologies to schools, colleges and universities, as well as nonprofits and museums. And it just so happens that Microsoft is now taking Academic Research Request for Proposals by supplying eligible groups/schools/museums with their cutting-edge HoloLens which goes beyond AR and VR to offer truly MR without losing sight of the real world around you (this is unique as of this writing). Aloha Record Sargent, Cabrillo’s library Technology Services Librarian welcomes new ideas.

Action Steps & Timeline: This service and resource can be piloted at Cabrillo and later replicated at any of the other 1,462 community collegesstrewn about the country (the largest number are in California, Texas, North Carolina, Illinois, and New York). The program could be launch between a 9-month to 15-month period, depending on the technology’s availability, allocation, and initial training. Microsoft will send out experts who train community leaders in the HoloLens. The actual time it will take to launch classroom lab sessions and library reference will depend on these realistic factors. The enthusiasm and technological savvy of the millennial college students will no doubt fill faculty teaching and learning gaps as well as help to flatten the nascent learning curve. The “fun factor” and “technolust” about MR should not be underestimated in its potential to dramatically improve health science learning.  

1. Pitch project to the library’s Technology Services Librarian and two nursing program senior faculty members. (1 Week)

2. Pitch project with demonstrations by a HoloLens Microsoft expert to the Director of the library as well as the head of the nursing program. (1 Week)

3. If approved to go forward, both library and nursing program coordinate an application to the Microsoft Academic Research Request for Proposals award. (1 Month)

4. If the award is granted, library and nursing program will begin lesson planning and physical accommodations for HoloLens with the help of Microsoft supervisor. (6 Months). If not granted, seek funding from the state under a newly appointed cross-departmental health sciences technology committee. (1-2 Years)

5. If money is found, begin coaching all involved faculty on MR technology, as supported by Microsoft supervisor. (3 Months)

6. Once faculty have gone through basic training, a group of test students in library and nursing classes will test out the first six weeks of new lesson plans. All students will be surveyed. (6 weeks)

7. Once feedback has been gathered from students, faculty, and Microsoft supervisor, revise all lesson and reference plans. (2 weeks)

8. Once lesson plans have been updated, the library will host a two-week long HoloLens campaign with minimal physical advertising but large website banners and pop-ups. Tickets will be raffled online, each student ID entered will be given a number, and the library will host hour-long sessions per student during all business hours. Each participating student should be surveyed about their experience. (2 Weeks)

9. Once the library completes its campaign, feedback from library staff and students will be collected. Library protocols and arrangements will be modified to suit new survey and staff feedback. (2 Weeks) 

10. Once both departments have tested their tech and surveys have been gathered, an evaluation period. (Ongoing)

Staffing Considerations for this Technology or Service: Microsoft includes free direction, training, and support for their MR technology award. A nursing program tech support member should be hired from each class for each class in a work-for-tuition contract. Additionally, tech support from the student body should be hired in shifts in the library. These student workers will be given all access to Microsoft support as well as MR supplies and privileges. No new faculty need be hired. 

Training for this Technology or Service: Student MR techs will be responsible for learning to teach students how to use the MR technology and how to rely on Microsoft support and technology updates. Faculty and librarians will have already been trained each term by a virtual Microsoft MR expert. The cascade will flow from Microsoft to faculty and library staff to student techs to student classes and library members. Because this is MR technology, training lessons and updates can be scheduled whenever it is convenient for staff or student. Regular trainings will be scheduled by Microsoft and shared with students and staff. Students will be given more agency in their learning by having to self-train as well as be led by instructors and librarians.  

Promotion & Marketing for this Technology or Service: MR technology in the library and classroom will be promoted exclusively by word-of-mouth and digital advertising on the college website and social media. This technology is predominantly targeting a hyper-tech savvy and technolustful youth group which participate in each other’s lives as well as in formal learning online and in virtual realities. The cost and effort savings will be great. The focus is to train students to teach students in a term-by-term circuit. This will also relieve the college budget of hiring faculty who would be spending time on promotion, training, and otherwise managing a system that can manage itself. Moreover, because Microsoft is a giant with giant marketing of this MR technology, most of the work is done for the college in terms of promoting and marketing. (If the Microsoft award is not granted, then this plan is still viable. The only difference is where the funding is coming from. Microsoft will still train users and equip them with regularly evolving updates.)

Augmentarium, University of Maryland

Evaluation: Evaluation criteria will include:

*Trends in course and library attendance.

*Statistics in differences from previous analogue nursing courses to MR courses: learning retention, synthesis, etc.

*Mandatory library MR surveys and course exit interviews. 

*Feedback from staff and faculty.

*Microsoft analytics on our performance and behavior

There are boundless applications for MR technology in education across the board. Communities can be strengthened by connecting both in person and virtually to share ideas and stories. There are even gigantic technology empires who see this potential and want to share new transformative tools such as MR that connect us to ourselves and others like never before. Not to mention, most of us, I hope, want to reduce out carbon footprints in an unstable climate by getting on zoom rather than in the car. This all seems grand, but research on MR’s positive effects on learning in classrooms, libraries, and at home, are incontrovertible.

Community colleges are small and inexpensive and limited and don’t carry any prestige, nor offer a degree that meets most standards of employability. But they’re also the unsung heroes of students like myself who transferred from Cabrillo to U.C. Berkeley because they are very good at educating, they have great libraries, they are accessible to virtually all of us – rich or poor, they bring commuters from a great variety of backgrounds just as so many universities do, and they evolve with the times to offer an education with new and exciting and effective teaching methods. 

Medical schools have a great deal of money – there’s lots of money in medicine, after all. They can afford new teaching tools such as MR and they have. Now it’s time our unsung heroes get those resources as well. Cabrillo’s nursing program offers a two-year degree to become an LVN but prepares most students to transfer into four-year intuitions with more money and greater resources. Microsoft isn’t the only wealthy tech company looking to fund places like Cabrillo who have very rare and unique health sciences programs like nursing. Google has a version of MR and so does Facebook, and they both award this technology to libraries and classrooms whom otherwise could not afford it. 

Why not approach the acquisition and employment of this transformative technology by enrolling students in the application, training, testing, and coaching of MR technologies, libraries and classrooms rather than sacrifice precious funding on new staff? Getting students and library members to help apply for and implement MR tech is a new and better way to strengthen our community colleges and improve what they offer to so many of us. With the help of enthusiastic and motivated students, the dedication of our community college teachers and librarians, the generous donations of tech giants, and little need to invest in marketing, expanding this program to other community colleges should go viral. 

Augmentarium, University of Maryland


Bohyun (Library Hat). (2012). What Do Libraries Call Users, and What Do Library Users Think of Themselves in relation to Libraries? Retrieved from

Johnson L., Adams Becker S., Cummins M., Estrada V., Freeman A., Hall C. (2016, June). Retrieved from

Lessick, S., and Kraft, M. (2017). Facing Reality: the Growth of Virtual Reality and Health Science Libraries. Retrieved from

OCLC. (2015). Libraries and the Internet of Things. Retrieved from  

Stephens, M. (2004). Technoplans vs. Technolust. Retrieved from

Stephens, M. (2018). The hyperlinked library: Exploring the model. INFO 287. Retrieved from  

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