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Two students using VR headsets and controllers web

Latest VR technology bringing mental wellbeing to York College students

The latest virtual reality (VR) technology is helping York College students whose access to study has been limited by mental health issues.

The VR headset and software is some of the first of its kind to be used by a college in the UK, and offers a range of exercises all within a virtual world of tranquil locations such as beaches and waterfalls.

Sue Whitehorn, a Learning Support Mentor at York College, said the technology is available to students who have been referred to Learning Support and identified as having a special education need.

“It’s not just about using the technology when a student is distressed,” she said. “It’s about picking the moment to introduce it to a student, letting them experience it and see how they respond.

“We often see an instant response and they just seem to be able to better manage the difficulties of their day. It’s particularly helpful with reducing anxiety levels so some students are using VR to help ease themselves into their day in order to manage their anxiety and engage with lessons.”

The software, called VMind, was developed by tech company Another Space, in conjunction with the University of Leeds Psychology department, and is aimed at users aged 12 and above.

Upon entering the programme through a VR headset, students are transported to a curated set of virtual experiences that combine peaceful landscapes and narrated sessions designed to calm the user and develop skills for managing thoughts and emotions.

“We’re getting really positive feedback,” said Sue. “And we’re getting students from right across our curriculum using it. Anxiety can be a barrier to their education but this technology helps them refocus their emotions.”

Gemma Thomas, Learning Support Manager at York College, said: “We have about 700 students actively supported by our Learning Support team, which comprises mentors and specialists that have focused areas of expertise such as autism spectrum disorder, mental health, and ADHD.

“The feedback we’re receiving from users of the VR software demonstrates the importance for us, as a college, to constantly explore the latest technologies.”

Find out more about our many Student Support services at York College here