Applying VR to Education

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Virtual reality (VR) has numerous advantages over other forms of education. Compared to textbooks, it’s more immersive. Compared to video, it’s more interactive. Compared to computer programs and video games, it’s more lifelike. It can be used as a one-to-many medium for lectures and practicum alike, and each experience is repeatable while using no new resources, allowing every student to learn and grow. It places educational concepts in context, and works in tandem with imagination to expand possibilities for students from pre-school to PHD. Not only is VR more engaging for students, but it also improves long-term retention of information and the skills it simulates.

 

Virtual Field Trips

VR’s power to create isn’t only a tool to imagine new ideas, but also to share experiences that already exist. The ability to recreate and travel to any location is a great opportunity for educators to give their students a grand tour of the world without the cost and disruption to daily classes. VR’s immersion can help reach and engage students in the classroom who learn better through more hands-on experience. Making education a more enjoyable experience is beneficial for both students and teachers.

 A rainforest “field trip” from  Alchemy Learning

A rainforest “field trip” from Alchemy Learning

Using VR as an educational tool has inspired companies to start investing in affordable and effective ways to help teachers add VR to their curriculum. Arlington Science Focus School is a small startup in Baltimore trying to utilize VR to create educational programs for K-12. Using the power and affordability of the Oculus Rift (now just $250), teachers could take their students to the Amazon year after year without any of the travel costs or fear of alligators.

The tech-giant Google has also launched its own educational service “Google Expeditions”. Google has created hundreds of VR tours crafted solely for the classroom. Teachers can order an expedition kit and get everything they need to take their students on an adventure to discover the mysteries of the deep sea to the humbling vastness of space.

The potential of VR doesn’t just stop at wondrous landmarks — it also has the ability to give students experiences outside of their culture. By actually putting you in someone else’s shoes, students feel what it is like to be a refugee fleeing a country that is ravaged by a civil war. VR has the potential to instill empathy for others and give students a look at the world that has never been possible with any other form of media.

 

Creation

VR is a powerful platform for education, but giving the tools to creators to construct their ideas is something that has limitless potential.

Tilt Brush is an exciting endeavor by Google to give artists a canvas to bring their vision to (virtual) reality. Available on HTC Vive and Oculus Rift headsets, artists can use their rooms as a 3D workspace to draw, paint, and share whatever their imagination demands to express. Google even teamed up with artists to show the full force of Tilt Brush in their “Tilt Brush Artist in Residence” program.

The ability to manipulate and create in a 3D space has already started to impact the world of architecture. The popularity of Minecraft and Fantastic Contraption showed that there is an interest in video games that allow players the freely make complex structures. With the advancement of VR technology, both games were eventually ported to the support VR headsets and take the games a step further with 3D possibilities. This idea of creating a world around you has slowly spread to real architecture. Designers and architects can now using VR to get a better idea of how the layout and aesthetic of a room before ordering a single piece of furniture.

 

Immersive Versions of Classic Classroom Topics

The great thing about VR is that it can help us have experiences we wouldn’t normally, or couldn’t possibly, have during our lifetimes. Walking next to a tyrannosaurus or traversing the Milky Way gives a level of understanding that could never be gained from a simple depiction in a book. Even walking students through 3D dramatizations of historical events would make a lesson that would be impossible to snooze through. Making education into something fun and engaging could increase retention and motivate students to apply themselves more in school.

 

Training

Getting a new job or learning a new skill can be frightening, but VR opens a whole new way for workers to get trained for their duties without any consequences.

Surgeons have a high-stress profession due to the life-or-death consequences and unexpected obstacles that can arise mid-procedure. ImmersiveTouch has created a program that can accurately render patients MRI scans and allow surgeons to practice with haptic-feedback controllers to simulate exact procedures. This innovation gives confidence to the surgeon and patient when going into the operating room.

VR can save lives, but it can also help with overcoming day-to-day issues. Public speaking is America’s number-one fear, and it is something that we encounter frequently, so VirtualSpeech set out to help. This app offers public speaking courses in VR that put the user in front of a virtual audience. VirtualSpeech then runs its users through a presentation and gives them feedback on their performance to help give the user confidence without the real-world consequences.

 

New Worlds of Learning Await

VR is becoming affordable enough for universities, and even classrooms, to benefit from the advantages of a realm that can be fully created. Whether it’s a simple tour or training a new surgeon, it will result in faster education, better retention of skills and knowledge, and a better world.

Nik Amar