Virtual Reality in Education: The Next New Norm
Growing up, you likely heard that most people are either visual, auditory, read/write, or kinesthetic learners. While it may not have meant much to you back then, understanding these different types of learning styles can drastically impact the way teachers educate students, set up group projects, and adapt individual learning.
We don’t all learn the same way, so how can we expect to take a one-size-fits-all approach to teaching? But with immersive technology, it’s possible to use all these learning styles in the classroom together.
Virtual reality (VR) in education is opening the door to a new way to train students by incorporating diverse learning styles.
Teachers need to deliver lessons in an equal, uniform way that engages all their students. If that’s not tricky enough, they also have to juggle a shortage of qualified teachers and limited (or no) access to additional resources.
Virtual reality is gaining significant traction in education for one simple reason: It offers students a unique opportunity to explore and experience concepts in a way that traditional teaching methods cannot.
Up for a virtual field trip to historic cites? What about simulated lab experiments? Regardless of the educational use case, VR has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach and learn.
Understanding the Role of Virtual Reality in Education
VR is a computer-generated simulation of a three-dimensional environment that users experience through a headset or other immersive display. With VR, users are fully immersed in the environment, which fosters a genuine sense of being in the moment.
Because students can interact with the simulated environment, VR offers unique learning experiences in education. It’s measurably effective, too.
According to a study by PwC, they found that – with VR – learners are:
And the opportunities for students are endless. They can explore historical sites or scientific concepts through virtual field trips, allowing them to see and experience things they may not have the opportunity to do in real life. Or they can be virtually exposed to dangerous or costly training environments, such as surgery or piloting an aircraft, without any risk.
Maybe they’re more focused on language learning. VR can create immersive environments where students can practice and improve their language skills by interacting with native speakers, ordering food at a restaurant, or asking for directions on the street.
But the best part of VR learning is that it emphasizes equity for all walks of life, including special education support. For instance, students with autism can benefit from virtual reality environments that help them practice social situations in a safe and controlled environment.
Benefits of Using Virtual Reality in Education
VR is powerful because it lets students learn through experience. It changes the entire educational experience by offering a range of benefits for both students and teachers. Some of the benefits of using VR in education include:
Virtual Reality in Different Educational Settings
Teaching hasn’t evolved much throughout history. Whether studying hand-written notes for tests, sitting in lectures, or trying to retain every important historical event through a textbook, fact retention is usually the basis for the conventional classroom experience.
Now, VR is adding an immersive and engaging twist to both students’ and professionals’ experiences. They’re being transported from their desks to the Aztec ruins, experimenting with volatile chemicals and observing the explosive reactions without being physically harmed. Students using VR can even step into another’s point of view to complete more impactful diversity and inclusion training thanks to VR soft-skill training developers like Bodyswaps.
Primary and Secondary Education
Elementary schools use VR to enhance learning in a variety of subjects, including science, math, social studies, and art. Students can use VR to explore planets, galaxies, and asteroids in the solar system. They can visit the locations they learn so much about in textbooks – or create digital art in a virtual environment. Whatever they use it for, VR makes learning fun and engaging for elementary school kids.
Southborough CE primary school is already creating unforgettable learning experiences for its students using VR. With a central, dedicated Discovery Center acting as the technology hub for the whole school, they’re delivering immersive reading and writing experiences. Using VR, the students can walk into the pages of the books they’re reading and immerse themselves in an entirely new world.
At middle school and high school levels, students use VR to learn more complex concepts in biology, chemistry, physics, and engineering. Because theory-based conceptual subjects like these can often be difficult for students to visualize and comprehend, students can use VR to simulate experiments or build virtual models of complex systems firsthand. At this point in their education, VR plays a large role in molding students’ critical thinking and problem-solving skills.
Orewa College is another school leaning into this technology to incorporate unique educational experiences within the classroom. After seeing success with preliminary VR experiments, the school gave students the chance to develop their own application in their classrooms. Under this program, teachers interested in incorporating VR into their curriculum can collaborate with student ambassadors to learn more about the technology and its potential.
Virtual Reality in Higher Education
In colleges and universities, VR creates immersive and interactive learning experiences to supplement traditional teaching methods. Now, medical students can use VR to simulate surgical procedures, while engineering students use it to simulate the design of gearbox assemblies.
In the case of Concordia University, VR can be used to bring history to life. Concordia University’s Debates & Challenges in contemporary Quebec Society class sought to find answers to what happened to Faubourg à m’lasse, a working-class, Francophone neighborhood located along the shore of the St-Lawrence River in Montreal. With the help of VR and meticulously documented archival material, the team virtually reconstructed a historically authentic Faubourg apartment of the 1960s.
By immersing themselves in the apartment, they uncovered tidbits about Faubourg residents’ lives and found answers to everyone’s lingering questions.
VR can go beyond STEM applications, too, though. In language and cultural studies, it can create immersive language-learning environments, complete with real-life conversations and situations. And of course, VR eventually comes full circle, back to creative expression.
Using VR, Stanford VR Design Lab conducts artful research specifically for the purpose of human expression and creativity. In their quest to support design research projects at CCRMA, they also collaborate regularly with Computer Science, Art/Art History, and Communication at Stanford and other Ivy League schools.
Vocational and Technical Virtual Reality Training
Though not necessarily a traditional application for the technology, VR has a wide range of applications in vocational and technical training. Like most settings, it can simulate real-world scenarios and environments, allowing trainees to practice and develop their skills in a safe and controlled environment. This is particularly useful for technical skills training, where learners need to practice hands-on skills and procedures (i.e., automotive or HVAC repair jobs).
It can also be helpful for students like those at Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS). Instructors at IVRS are incorporating VR into their curriculum to captivate their special needs students and support their development of STEM-based work skills.
Because VR enables instructors to conduct interactive demonstrations of technical concepts and procedures, learners who may struggle to understand abstract or complex concepts get a more comprehensive education. Take welding, for instance. Instructors can use VR to create immersive training environments that simulate real-world welding scenarios. Trainees can practice welding in different contexts, such as construction sites, factories, or repair shops, and learn how to adapt their welding skills to other settings.
But aside from the hard skills, VR helps cultivate soft skills for those preparing for job interviews or customer service scenarios. By using VR for soft skill training, learners can gain valuable communication skills in a realistic, immersive environment, leading to more effective learning and better outcomes in the workplace.
Air University’s Squadron Officer College now integrates virtual reality as a learning tool in the SOC education program. With what they refer to as a mixed reality learning experience (or MRLx), they can set the stage for realistic, immersive two-way conversations with an avatar.
This way, they prepare their trainees with opportunities to put their leadership skills to the test for difficult but necessary conversations.
Professional Development in Virtual Reality
VR use cases in training and professional development settings are climbing. In healthcare settings, professionals can use VR to practice procedures and protocols in a safe and controlled environment before putting those skills to use on a patient. And because safety is such a big concern in construction, construction crews can use VR to simulate dangerous or complex scenarios before tackling the real thing.
Consider an operating room (OR) fire scenario (as if surgery wasn’t stressful enough). Baylor Health Care System conducted a study to evaluate the impact of an immersive VR-based OR fire training simulation system.
Their results were jaw-dropping: VR-trained professionals showed a 250% improvement in their ability to perform the correct sequence of steps in extinguishing the simulated fire when compared to traditionally trained professionals (no VR).
Challenges of Implementing Virtual Reality in Education
Education is, undoubtedly, the backbone of our society – and VR is only strengthening it. But even with all its achievements, there are a few challenges to using virtual reality in education.
Best Practices for Rolling Out Virtual Reality in Educational Settings
When rolling out virtual reality (VR) in educational settings, there are several best practices you can follow to minimize the challenges you encounter along the way.
VR offers vast potential to revolutionize the education sector. From improving engagement to enhancing learning outcomes, VR has already demonstrated numerous benefits for learners and educators alike. Despite its promising benefits, however, there are still some challenges to overcome, including the high cost of entry, the lack of content, and the search for the right MDM.
Fortunately, innovative companies like ArborXR are addressing these challenges with dedicated XR MDM solutions. After all, ArborXR was created to make XR experiences in education seamless – and it shows. We’re trusted by 2,000+ companies worldwide, we have more than 420+ schools on the platform, and we have customers in 90+ countries.
Now, as we move towards a more technology-driven future, it’s essential for educators to explore the use of VR in their classrooms. By embracing VR technology and integrating it into their curriculum, we can all provide an immersive and engaging learning experience that will equip students with valuable skills and knowledge for the future.
Want to explore the use of VR in your classroom? Starting out a new XR pilot program? Need help managing XR headsets across classrooms, campuses, and school districts? We do it all. Get started with a free trial today.
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