Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College received a $1.6 million grant through the Governor’s Emergency Education Response (GEER) fund for Essential Emergency Educational Services as part of the U.S. Government’s CARES Act.  The grant will allow the college to expand the deployment of augmented (AR), virtual (VR), and extended (XR) reality technology to enhance remote skills-based learning, to train students in the new Simulation and Game Design Technology program, establish an Interactive Digital Center, and to expand the existing Cybersecurity Technology program.

“Because of COVID-19, MGCCC and other institutions of higher learning have had to rethink the way we provide instruction,” said Dr. Jonathan Woodward, Executive Vice President of Teaching and Learning. “AR/VR/XR solutions can be leveraged to produce and reskill Mississippi’s essential workforce to accelerate an economic restart, as well as position the Gulf Coast to respond to any possible crisis situations in the future. The quick adaptation to deliver education and training utilizing this technology will help ensure uninterrupted education and training for future workers.”

Additionally, by providing training in the new Simulation and Game Design Technology program, the college will help meet the job market demand for AR/VR/XR engineers, which has grown exponentially in the last year for many sectors, including industrial automation, aerospace, construction, education, and health care. This growth in the job market demand has led to an unprecedented need to rapidly train people to develop AR/VR/XR content.

With the addition of technologies such as AR/VR/XR, there has been a drastic increase in cyberattacks, leaving companies exposed for data breaches. Therefore, an additional focus of the grant will be to quickly upscale the workforce to prevent these attacks. In addition to quickly upscaling the pipeline of workers to prevent these types of attacks, there is a need to do so with the consideration of COVID-19 safety guidelines. Software-as-a-Solution (SaaS) is a framework that not only allows for remote access to servers in order to train in cybersecurity, but it also allows for flexibility and scalability not often afforded with traditional software solutions. MGCCC will partner with Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi State University, and other partners to provide SaaS-based cybersecurity training for airmen and Information Systems Technology students.

MGCCC will also expand XR education and training to 11th and 12th grade students within the college’s dual credit partnership.  AR/VR/XR will be implemented in programs and courses containing dual credit students in Spring, Summer and Fall 2021.

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