COVID-19 has changed many aspects of our society. One of the most impactful changes has been in the education sector. Shifting to virtual classes, students feel more disconnected, and many struggle with learning in an online setting. In the wake of these issues, one surprising technology may hold the key to improving learning and connecting students: Virtual Reality.
Virtual Reality (VR) is a technology that uses simulations of situations or places to immerse the subject. VR has been used mainly for video games but is also incredibly effective within education. VR allows for students to visit various places and time periods without leaving the classroom. Studies have shown that VR is especially effective at teaching skills to neurodiverse students. These skills include things like crossing the street or tying shoe laces.
VR has also been shown to be effective at engaging students and improving learning. According to a 2019 Adobe article, traditional education is measured by fact retention, typically through rote memorization. This can make learning more difficult for some students who may have memory or retention issues. Virtual reality makes learning easier by teaching through application. From simulated medical surgeries to virtual frog dissections (via the app Froggipedia), students are able to gain first-hand experiences in an easy and cost-effective way. VR has found the most success in teaching subjects like history, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), and art. From architecture to even topics like philosophy, VR lessons have been shown to better retain student attention and to boost learning.
Most VR lessons use 360 VR, where a scene or photo is designed in a 360° space. This allows students to wear VR headsets to walk around in the setting or have it projected on a wall. Using VR, students are able to take virtual field trips together to places like the bottom of the ocean or to the Great Wall of China. While each student experiences virtual reality differently, the whole class learns as a group, helping to better connect students. These VR field trips allow teachers to monitor student learning more easily and make learning more inclusive for the whole classroom.
While VR equipment can be expensive, it doesn’t have to be. Using free apps like Timelooper or 360Cities allows teachers to make extremely cost-effective lesson plans. While the headset can range typically from $20-100 per unit, Google has provided cheaper options ($8 per unit) through Google Cardboard. These cardboard headsets use a smartphone and its apps as the software for virtual reality. The Adobe article estimated that for a class of 30 students, approximately 15 headsets minimum were needed. When crunching the numbers, the lessons and VR equipment would cost significantly less than an actual class field trip, such as to Washington DC. The affordability of VR, while not yet perfect (as expensive smartphones are required) is helping to bridge the digital divide, making digital learning more accessible to underserved areas.
Virtual learning has become most commonly implemented in the UK, and has seen successful results in both primary and secondary school. This form of immersive education may be the
wave of the future, as it’s helping to connect students, boost learning, and inspire thousands. VR is also a COVID-19 friendly learning device, as students can take it home with them to learn outside of the classroom or to be better engaged during remote learning. With VR, students can virtually shadow at their dream jobs or visit faraway galaxies. VR enables creativity in learning and makes the possibilities endless.
Babich, Nick. 2019. “How vr in Education Will Change How We Learn and Teach | Adobe XD Ideas.” Ideas. September 19, 2019.
LSU Online. 2020. “How Virtual Reality Is Changing Education.” Lsu.edu. LSU Online. June 19, 2020.
Marr, Bernard. 2021. “Extended Reality in Education: The 5 Ways vr and AR Will Change the Way We Learn at School, at Work and in Our Personal Lives.” Forbes. April 19, 2021.
Stenger, Marianne. 2017. “10 Ways Virtual Reality Is Already Being Used in Education | InformED.” InformED. October 28, 2017.
“Virtual Reality in Education: Benefits, Tools, and Resources.” 2019. Soeonline.american.edu. December 16, 2019.
“VR for Education | the Future of Education.” 2021. Immersion VR. 2021.
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