A group of Shenandoah University students, faculty and staff recently visited Arab American University (AAUP), a private Palestinian university in Jenin, to demonstrate a virtual nursing simulation platform, conduct workshops and meet with AAUP leadership.
The trip, which took place over eight days in early June, was made as Shenandoah continues to bolster its international partnership with AAUP. The Shenandoah delegation was led by Associate Professor and Virtual Reality (VR) Design Academic Program Coordinator Mohammad Obeid, Ph.D., and included Assistant Professor of Exercise Science Robert Hilliard, Ph.D.; Adjunct Instructor of Virtual Reality Design Lee Graff, M.Ed.; Extended Reality (XR) Specialist Wes Brown; and two recent graduates of Shenandoah’s virtual reality design program, Orion Tighe ’22 and John Ulbrich ’22.
Arab American University representatives visited Winchester in February to tour SU, meet with Shenandoah administrators and faculty, and to sign a memorandum of understanding that formalized the partnership.
Collaboration between Shenandoah and AAUP began in the fall of 2021, with an ongoing research project on which Shenandoah and AAUP partnered to develop a proof-of-concept virtual reality platform to help students learn fundamental skills taught through nursing school labs. During their recent trip to Palestine, Shenandoah University students, faculty and staff were able to test the software with over 50 AAUP nursing students. The results of this research study are being prepared in a manuscript to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Tighe, who has played a key role in the research grant project alongside Ulbrich and classmate Cole Herndon ’22, said the testing session that he was a part of at AAUP was very insightful. Tighe added that the language barrier made delivery of instructions and direction a challenge during the testing process.
“Additionally, because the simulation is still in early stages of development, there are a lot of bugs that need to be fixed and graphics that can be improved on. This, too, led to a lot of confusion among the students testing the program,” Tighe said. “Overall, I’d say that it was a very enlightening experience, and showed that there are a lot of ways these projects can be improved upon in the future.”
Dr. Obeid said the trip to Palestine was “successful on many fronts.” In addition to testing the nursing simulation software, Shenandoah faculty and staff members met with AAUP leadership and conducted three workshops for AAUP students, faculty and staff on the topics of 360 video production, VR development and Collaborative Online International Learning (COIL).
“I am happy that one of our COIL fellows, Dr. Hilliard, was able to visit AAUP and speak about his virtual exchange experience,” said Younus Mirza, Ph.D., director of Global Virtual Learning at SU. “Our program strongly believes in complimenting virtual collaborations with in-person travel in order to deepen and develop the relationships.”
Obeid added that he had the opportunity to meet with AAUP President Ali Zedan Abu Zuhri, Ph.D.; Vice President for International Relations Dalal Iriqat, Ph.D.; the university’s Board of Directors; and most of AAUP’s deans.
We were very impressed with AAUP’s hospitality, professionalism, and advances in medical and STEM fields. Our colleagues at AAUP showed readiness and enthusiasm to sustain and grow this partnership to benefit students of both institutions.”
Mohammad Obeid, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Virtual Reality (VR) Design Academic Program Coordinator
There are plans underway for further curricular development between Shenandoah University and AAUP, including faculty/student exchange, potential dual programs and further research projects, Obeid added.
Shenandoah’s delegation also had the opportunity to go visit historic locations in Palestine, including the Church of the Ten Lepers in Burqin; the Mount of Olives, the Church of Mary Magdalene, the Garden of Gethsemane, the Western Wall (“Wailing Wall”), and the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem; and Hisham’s Palace in Jericho.