Network Rail’s XR Training Pilot Reaches 1,000 UK Students

Students at Trinity Academy in Thorne, Doncaster undergo deep immersive

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Network Rail's XR Training Pilot Reaches 1,000 UK Students
Virtual RealityInsights

Published: May 8, 2024

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Rory Greener

Recently, Network Rail officially taught more than 1,000 students at the Trinity Academy in Thorne, Doncaster, a landmark number for immersive training programmes.  

Industry professionals at Network Rail’s Community Safety team and the British Transport Police hosted five railway safety sessions at the Doncaster school, showcasing the dangers of trespassing on railways.  

The immersive learning units leveraged VR headsets to simulate rail lines and the dangers of such spaces and 360-degree presentations. 

Robert Merry, Network Rail’s Community Safety Manager for East Coast Route, added: 

The 1,000th young person to use the VR headsets marks an important milestone in Network Rail’s campaign to expand the knowledge of railway safety in young people and we can’t wait to take them to more children and young people. 

Merry also said interactive VR training sessions teach the Doncaster students “an important lesson” around railway safety, which is uniquely achievable via VR.  

Merry also added:   

The use of virtual reality is a new and different way to show young people the real-life dangers and potential consequences of trespassing.  

Trinity Academy educators organized the training sessions ready for 100 students aged 13-14. According to Network Rail, this has led to a 1,000-student figure. 

Accumativly, Network Rails notes that there are “more than 1,000 young people” using its immersive learning programme across Network Rail’s East Coast route, resulting in an increased understanding of railway safety and risks. 

Solving Real World Concerns with VR 

Network Rail notes that recent safety figures highlight how more than 1,900 safety incidents occurred on East Coast routes last year – roughly 400 of the reports, equalling 20.5 per cent, involving young people under 21. 

This shocking figure is leading Network Rail to leverage the training potential of VR scenarios to inform students about railway risks such as trespassing, level crossing misuse, and railway crime. 

Students are leveraging innovative VR headsets that present immersive learning tools and modules, including 360-degree views of anger and potential consequences. 

The Network Rail professionals also boosted the effectiveness of the VR training modules by using traditional presentation methods to showcase safety measures and railway risks.  

Elizabeth Muthiah, Teacher of MFL and PSHE Co-ordinator at Trinity Academy, said: 

The rail safety session was a hard-hitting and informative workshop that really hit home the dangers that the railway can pose, which is a vital message for young people to hear. Our students gained a really good understanding about the appropriate conduct around the railway and how to stay safe. The students were especially enthusiastic about using the VR headsets and thoroughly enjoyed the immersive experience that they provided! 

Following the success of Doncaster, the Network Rail team plans to roll out the safety immersive training module to more schools and universities on the East Coast railway route. 

Is Immersive Learning on the Uptick?

Doncaster’s recent scaling success comes in the wake of similar success stories in the US.

In early February, CareerViewXR, a new immersive edtech startup, initiated a statewide program that provided more than 300 HTC VIVE VR headsets and corresponding immersive learning software to schools throughout North Dakota. The company’s web-based service is already extensively used in the region’s schools to provide a base for students to utilize an XR device. Over 300 devices have been implemented in schools, and more will be forthcoming.

Additionally, ManageXR, an XR MDM solutions provider, and the Kentucky Department of Education, headed by Dr. Shannon Putman, PhD, deployed approximately 2,450 Meta Quest 2 VR headsets across the state’s educational institutions in early February.

According to ManageXR, this landmark figure represents “the largest school district-led VR deployment in the country”. Furthermore, the headset deployment will be completed in two stages, with the headsets deployed in waves.

The news of classroom XR successes also comes as Meta works to create a new targeted headset solution for classrooms to improve onboarding and understanding of XR across educational professionals.

Meta’s President of Global Affairs, Nick Clegg, said that the firm plans to ship a new education product for Quest “in a few month’s time, which has been designed for and very much designed around the feedback we received from teachers themselves.”

Last year, the company introduced the Meta  Quest for Business product model, and soon, it will launch education solutions that cater specifically to teachers, trainers, and administrators. These solutions incorporate education-specific XR applications and management features that help empower educators.

With the new management features, teachers can use multiple Quest devices simultaneously in the classroom. Additionally, deep device management tools eliminate the need for teachers to update the devices one by one and prepare them manually and separately.

Clegg explained that Meta’s upcoming product results from “extensive consultation and collaboration with educators, researchers and third-party developers working in the education space around the world.”

In his blog post, Clegg also noted that education and training providers represent a “considerable market”, and Meta is witnessing a growing number of developers that are “building and releasing apps aimed at this sector” – with Clegg noting that the is the scope to scale immersive education product at a “much wider scale.”

Meta has not yet confirmed the name of the product. However, Clegg said the name and product features will be revealed in “the coming months.”

XR training and classroom learning success is proving a talking point in 2024. As industrial XR solutions also find success as training and learning tools, XR’s tentpole appears to be driving the industry forward.

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