WesternU Professor, Educational 3D Technology team collaborate on a brain-eye pathways 3D learning model

A Western University of Health Sciences professor and the WesternU 3D Technology team, part of WesternU Instructional Technology and Distributed Learning, are collaborating to create a brain-eye pathways 3D learning model to help improve comprehension of the visual pathways process.

College of Optometry Associate Professor Joshua Cameron, PhD, discusses with second-year College of Optometry students about assembling the model.

College of Optometry Associate Professor Joshua Cameron, PhD, FAAO, and the 3D team have created a prototype that consists of an ocular/retina structure, a 3D printed brain made from resin, and color-coded electroluminescent wires that show relevant visual pathways. They are hoping to provide evidence about how student learning is impacted by 3D models in the vision science classroom, as compared to the effectiveness of other visualization approaches such as computer modeling and textbook images.

Cameron’s goal is to have second-year CO students in his Vision Science 2: Monocular Sensory Vision (OPTM 6041) class team up and put together the 3D brain, eyes and color wires to correctly assemble the visual pathways process. They expect to prove that 3D models positively impact student learning, they will follow up with knowledge assessments that the students will take individually.

Cameron was awarded a 2018 Education Starter Grant in summer 2018 through the Association of Schools and Colleges of Optometry (ASCO) along with The Vision Care Institute LLC, an affiliate of Johnson & Johnson Vision Care Inc. The grant is titled “Advantages of 3D Printed Physical Models Over Computer-Generated Models and Textbooks.” The project completion date is December 29, 2019.

“The success of this project could lead to the development of additional 3D learning models for the vision science course or other curricula in optometry programs,” Cameron said. “In addition to improving student learning through kinesthetic engagement with custom 3D models, students will be exposed to technology that may be the future of their profession as medicine embraces 3D printing to educate and treat patients.”

Cameron met the 3D Technology team, led by Manager of 3D Educational Technologies Sunami Chun, during a Center for Academic and Professional Enhancement (CAPE) course titled “3D Pens for Student Engagement.” The course was taught by Department of Physical Therapy Education Assistant Professor Steven Snyder, DPT ’12.

Since that meeting, they have collaborated through designing, printing and integrating electronics into an alpha version of the model. Educational 3D Visualization Specialist Gary Wisser and Educational Application Designer Jeff Macalino worked on building the brain model and connecting the wires to the eyes for a functional prototype.

Educational 3D Visualization Specialist Gary Wisser tests the eye-brain pathways prototype.

“Our objective as the 3D tech team is to help enhance student learning,” Chun said. “We want to work with other colleges and programs to develop new ways to use this platform to teach. Under the Center of Innovation umbrella, it’s good to collaborate and come up with prototypes or solutions that we hope to market and have a revenue stream for the university.”

The timeline for the grant includes a continued effort to improve the model through fall 2018 while students interact with it and provide feedback on the design. Knowledge and student confidence questionnaires will be developed during the spring and summer of 2019, coinciding with final model development and full curriculum integration. The study will take place during the first part of fall semester 2019. Results will be published in the Journal of Optometric Education.

“We want WesternU to be looked at as a top-level university in terms of technology innovation and having innovative ways of teaching,” Chun said.