SIU Criminology students gain real life experience through virtual reality

Virtual reality helping SIU Criminology students.
Published: Apr. 17, 2023 at 8:39 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 17, 2023 at 10:15 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - A new tool is aimed at helping SIU Criminology students gain real life experience through virtual reality.

“It really pushes us forward in the education we can deliver,” said Director of School of Justice and Public Safety at SIU Matthew Giblin.

The SIU Criminology program is giving students greater insight into law enforcement challenges, while also providing a research mechanism to study aspects of police work through a new VR simulator.

“What we can do is we can give them the opportunity to experience split second decision making,” Giblin said. “We can give them the opportunity to understand how difficult it is to make decisions on the fly. And that’s really what we’re trying to do with our virtual reality system.”

More than 70 students on campus participated in the study already.

The university’s police department is partnering with the criminal justice program to help continue train their officers.

“Training is valuable to officers to begin with,” said SIU Chief of Police Benjamin Newman. “And so the more training an officer receives, the more they value their job and appreciate their experiences, the more they learn their roles and responsibilities, the more they’re satisfied with their job, the more the community is satisfied with their job performance.”

The VR experience allows the operator to change scenarios—including traffic stops, neighborhoods, streets and alleys.

One criminal justice students hopes it gives future and current students a look into the profession.

“I hope they understand the difficulties of police work and how you know decision making could be difficult,” said master’s student at SIU Jamie Stephens. “And also learning more about VR and how it could be a good learning tool for them to understand difficult jobs not only in the police work but in other fields as well.”

Giblin said the tool is also used to help attract more students into the program.

“The purpose of purchasing the VR is we really had a number of different goals. As I said one of the key reasons is to show individuals what it’s like to be a police officer. We hope to partner with local enforcement agencies including our university police partners, allowing them to train on the equipment,” Giblin said. “We hope to use it for recruitment, so when students and their families come to SIU they can actually see how we’re transferring classroom experiences into to really experiential settings.”

Giblin added that this new VR simulator is going to move the program forward.