One in three Ball State social work students will do in-home visits with families before they graduate, and a virtual reality home is now giving them the opportunity to practice those visits.

Josh Raines, assistant director of the Social Science Research Center, created the software. 

“With the virtual reality, it makes it much easier to recreate something that’s otherwise pretty unethical for us to reproduce in a meaningful way and in real reality," Raines said.

People who do the simulation can walk around a home and take photographs of things they see and rate those items on a scale. They can also talk about each item verbally, and their voice is recorded.

"There’s a lot of similarities in terms of the way people have their houses set up, a range of things within the household that are risky, and then things that are good that we can build on when we're trying to work with a family," Glenn Stone, social work department chairman, said. 

Stone said the home visit experience is hard to recreate in a classroom. He was a practicing social worker who did home visits.

“Since so many of our students do make these kinds of visits, this is a safe way for them to be trained in doing good observations, good assessments of a home environment without the risks of going in as a rookie,” Stone said. 

"We would like to provide some of that experience in a much more failure tolerant environment, because it just takes one bad experience for a family that’s already experiencing a lot of trouble to not really go well,” Raines said. 

Raines had local social work practitioners and faculty help design the house and also got feedback from law enforcement. Senior psychology major Megan Thompson has done the simulation.

"It’s crazy how when you put the mask on, you really were transported into another world and you truly felt like you were on another level. Then, when you took the mask off, you were like whoa, back to reality," Thompson said.

For more information on the VR drug house or the Social Science Research Center, visit North Quad 245.