Virtual Reality (VR) has evolved over the years, with the first physical VR machine being produced in 1956! With technology becoming more and more sophisticated as we enter the 21st Century, it’s no surprise that VR now has a firm imprint on how we teach, and the current Coronavirus pandemic has only accelerated this fact.
So, why will VR be the future of education? The following will delve into the various ways VR will be used in the industry as well as why it will help the future of teaching and learning.
Traditionally, we are taught by learning facts from books and other sources. But this does not suit everyone. A lot of us are visual and physical learners and need various stimuli to get the most out of the learning experience.
Through VR, we are able to jump into learning and interact with it, meaning that our ability to retain information is greatly enhanced. This is due to the fact that we are not required to use as much cognition compared to reading words out of a book for example. Below are a few reasons why learning can be improved in the future with the help of VR.
Turning Physical Into Virtual
With the use of VR technology, we are able to enter into different virtual areas to learn. For example, if a science lab is not available in a real-life scenario this can be transformed into a virtual lab where experiments can be taught.
Practice Makes Perfect
As mentioned before, traditionally, we are taught by reading textbooks or off smart-boards and repeating this process until the knowledge sticks. However, it’s been proven that people learn more effectively (and efficiently) when they take part in an activity that directly relates to what they are learning. VR gives us the opportunity to learn by actually performing a task when it would otherwise be impossible in a classroom.
With students being able to enter into environments that are interactive, it makes the information much easier to process. Examples of this in the real world will be outlined later, but platforms that enable virtual school trips and virtual training are extremely beneficial for students to get a good grip of what they are learning by experiencing everything hands-on. This also makes the teacher’s life much easier as it removes the need to explain things in a complex way that could be misunderstood. The quicker the students learn, the happier the teacher!
Understand The World Around Us
Through VR learning, we are able to jump into a whole new world while sitting in a classroom. Whether it be going back to Ancient Rome in History class, or travelling across the world to New Zealand in Geography – VR allows us to experience the world first-hand.
Excitement For The Technology
It’s true that VR is usually associated with the gaming industry, however, demand for its use in education is growing rapidly. Many famous personalities, such as Sir David Attenborough, have been endorsing the use of VR and how it can educate the public. Attenborough has been involved in a few VR projects over the years including Micro Monsters. This endorsement from public figures will only contribute to the growing excitement of VR’s capabilities.
With VR, we can make almost anything possible – especially in education.
From virtual classrooms to hands-on training, VR allows the user to experience situations they are usually unable to in the traditional classroom. Below are a few examples of how we can use VR for learning in the future.
As stated above, VR enables us to enter into experiences that we would otherwise not be able to in a normal classroom. A great example of this would be in the medical industry. With VR, students can learn using 3D imagery as well as performing examinations on virtual patients.
This is extremely beneficial in the surgical field as users can virtually carry out surgery and learn before moving to real patients. St George’s University Hospital in South London has actually adopted Fundamental Surgery to teach their students. This surgical teaching platform was created by software company FundamentalVR.
Students studying Geography or History can also benefit from VR. Using the technology, we are able to run virtual school trips. This is extremely beneficial as students get a real sense of the location they are learning about, instead of just reading about it in a textbook.
Another benefit of this is the feasibility and cost-effectiveness. By taking a virtual trip to Machu Picchu, students can experience the surroundings without the need to pay for the cost of the trip or take the time to get there.
We’re not saying that VR should completely replace real school trips as it is necessary to experience the real world. VR just allows a more diverse learning experience with virtual school trips.
A massive aspect of learning is communicating ideas in groups with other peers. With VR, we can use virtual rooms and avatars to create virtual classrooms with people on the other side of the world. This opens up the possibility of exchanging ideas with peers that are from different sides of the globe which will only enrich the learning experience.
Apps such as HTC’s Vive XR Suite provide a remote collaboration centre where users can engage in conversation and discuss ideas. As technology becomes more advanced, more platforms like this will become available.
Deciding A Career Path
A common problem with many students in today’s society is that they are unsure of what career they want to pursue. VR can help alleviate a portion of this problem by helping students enter into the shoes of a person that may be in a specific field. Through this, the user can understand the career a little bit better and get an understanding if it’s something they want to pursue further.
Similar to the virtual field trips, with VR, language students are able to visit the country of the language they are learning and communicate (virtually) with others. The user will actually get the feeling of being there which will help them get a better understanding of how to communicate as the virtual environment tricks our brain into actually thinking we are present.
An example of this being in place is MondlyVR by ATi Studios. This platform guides the user through various pronunciations in real-world situations using an avatar ‘teacher’. It engages the user in conversations and gives constant feedback due to its chatbot technology.
VR opens up the possibility of learning that we have never experienced before and it has the potential to change the way we educate and learn forever. With the technology steadily becoming more advanced, students will become more engaged with the classroom and therefore be able to absorb information more effectively.
Of course, we still are not there yet technologically for VR to take up the majority of our learning experience, however, it may not be far away. VR technology has come so far already, with wireless headsets such as the Oculus Quest 2 it makes learning far more feasible and frictionless as compared to a wired PC HMD. Who knows where the next few years take us but VR will become even more advanced and this will only make the learning experience more accessible.
We will also be relying on the people in education to adapt and then adopt this technology to make it happen. The common goal for everyone across the world should be to make education as accessible as possible and VR can achieve that goal.