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The Future of VR in Education: Full Immersion in Learning

Teachers and students are ready to use VR technology in education.

 

The traditional educational process means a dry presentation of facts and putting theory into practice. Many generations have learned according to this “golden” formula. But there is one problem: this model doesn’t take into account the individual characteristics of students.

Those with poor academic performance cannot memorize large amounts of information.  Some schoolchildren are visual learners: it is important for them to “see” the object of study, and not just hear or read about it.

That is why teachers evaluate VR as a universal educational method that can interest students, regardless of their abilities and hobbies. Let’s look into the future of VR in education, which is gradually becoming a reality.

Students and Teachers Are Ready To Use VR in Education

The results of studies on the VR impact on student engagement in the learning process show that in more than 60% of cases, students have increased attention, and interest in the subject. Teachers see this technology as the best option for personalized differentiated learning.

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Modern schoolchildren and students are accustomed to games and entertainment, with levels, points, and rewards. They are more interested in playing than listening to their teachers. Teaching techniques that worked 50 years ago are ineffective for today’s students. Educators can either struggle against technologies or use them to their advantage to teach kids more productively.

According to one survey, even back in 2018, 18% of US educational institutions fully deployed VR, and 46% of colleges employed VR in some form on campus. So, it’s clear that the prospects for this technology are stunning. XR experts believe the education and healthcare industries are leaders in the use of immersive technologies. VR in education  is forecast to be a $700 million market by 2025. Fortune Business Insights even predicts that the VR in education market will grow from $656 million in 2018 to $13 billion in 2026.

5 Ways VR Is Improving Education

Classical education implies that schoolchildren will read books and memorize facts. But even motivated students tend to forget the information they don’t use over time. They just do not have an opportunity to immerse themselves in the topic, experience, and comprehend the material. VR provides students with this opportunity and makes them active participants in the educational process. Let’s take a look at 5 ways VR is transforming education.

VR in School Education: When Theory Becomes Reality

VR tools are used in the classroom to simulate certain objects, processes, or environments.

For example, instead of dissecting a frog, schoolchildren do this procedure in an educational VR Frog Dissection virtual reality experience. Pupils dissect a simulated frog and examine the structure of the body without harming an animal. The experience, guided by a hologram of a teacher, covers every step students would normally take when dissecting a frog in their classroom.

A virtual laboratory will soon be enough to conduct experiments in physics and chemistry. Wearing VR headsets, children will be able to explore any continent during geography lessons. For example, Google Expeditions allows you to visit the Louvre with a tour, wander on the Moon or fly to Mars.

VR technology will become a kind of time machine, taking schoolchildren to different eras so that they can observe significant world events. An example of this is the VR film produced by BBC Northern Ireland and Immersive VR Education which allows pupils to learn how the Lancaster bomber’s Berlin mission took place back in 1943. The film is based on authentic recordings made by a BBC war reporter. Thanks to VR, a schoolchild can now join the airplane crew to find out the details of one of the largest military missions during the Second World War.

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VR creates an interactive environment that makes it easier to perceive and remember information. Getting into an immersive environment, pupils obtain a clear notion of what they are studying and use knowledge in practice. It is easier for schoolchildren to perceive different things with VR.

VR in Higher Education: Additional Practice

VR is not a new technology for colleges and universities. According to Internet2, more than two-thirds of institutions were testing or actively using VR and AR technologies. Some educational institutions deploy special laboratories. They provide educators with equipment to develop their own learning content.

Harvard University is developing AR/VR studio, Harvard Innovation Labs, for students studying for a degree. Such a laboratory helps future scientists master the technology and understand how to use innovation in their research.

Colorado State University also set up its laboratory for student groups of up to 100 people. The creator of the laboratory, Dr. Tod Clapp, an Associate Professor in anatomy and neuroanatomy at CSU, set a goal to supplement the study of anatomy with exciting elements. Students can study the structure of a human, view three-dimensional images of body parts, or dissect a virtual corpse. According to Harvard Business Review, VR-trained surgeons are 230% more efficient at performing surgical procedures than traditionally trained specialists.

Students at technical universities also hone their skills in immersive environments, “repairing” virtual models of complex equipment. They study the structure of devices and learn safety techniques before they start working with real models. Just a year ago, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency introduced a VR device for pilot training. It allows you to work out the riskiest maneuvers in an immersive environment. Pilots, instructors, and test pilots practice on this equipment.

VR in Distance Learning: Education Without Borders

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown society how important distance learning is. But a problem has arisen: even if students are provided with a video lesson with a detailed explanation, not everyone will have the skill of self-organization to complete tasks.

VR is becoming an incentive for students taking online education. Gamification elements motivate them to complete tasks and receive rewards. Technology helps students of those specialties for which it is important to work out classes in practice. It makes it possible to independently experiment with various chemicals without health risks. A medical student can remotely practice cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Teachers create 3D versions of classrooms, where each student has a personal avatar that can move around the classroom and communicate with their mates. Students of the UNC Hussman School of Media and Journalism were engaged in this educational model during the pandemic. A teacher distributed virtual reality headsets to 28 students so they were able to enter the virtual classroom and interact with each other. The teacher did not have to record video lessons: they were conducted live but in the virtual world. Of course, this is not a cheap project, and the scope of remote VR learning is limited by the fact that not every student can buy a headset.

VR in Special Education: New Educational Resources

VR technology provides new educational resources for children with cognitive impairments or disabilities. VR imitates situations that teach them to communicate with other people, manage emotions, and practice scenarios of behavior. For example, the VOISS and Floreo projects are working to help children to develop social skills. The programs create a digital controlled environment that recreates standard life situations. An educational VR application helps the pupil to navigate the place and correctly respond to the requests of virtual interlocutors.

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Special platforms with acoustic effects teach the blind to navigate in space. Training VR systems teach auditory orientation to the blind by simulating the head-related transfer function. The system simulates the conditions of a real street environment. Focusing on the sound of cars, people’s voices, and ambient noise, a blind person can safely move around the area. Research shows that virtual learning has fewer “deviations” than standard learning and causes less stress for students.

Children with varying degrees of learning disabilities are able to concentrate on a subject when plain text is complemented by 3D images, audio, and video. For such pupils, interactive VR textbooks are created that hold their attention and present the material visually, using as many memorization triggers as possible.

VR in Vocational Training: Total Immersion

VR tools also help employees to gain new knowledge and improve their skills. The technology can recreate the operation of the necessary equipment and simulate situations from life and emergencies to test the knowledge of specialists in a particular field.

For example, Walmart is using VR to train employees on how to behave during periods of heavy workloads, like during Black Friday. Long queues, numerous discounts, and complaints from waiting customers provoke stressful situations even for experienced employees. New specialists learn to cope with non-standard working moments. With the help of VR headsets, they get into various situations and must choose the best behavior strategy in a particular case. Colleagues watch a trainee through the screen and comment on their decision. This onboarding format for Walmart means that new employees will make fewer mistakes at work and perform as efficiently as experienced workers.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts also simulates real scenarios in a virtual environment so that teams understand the complexities of working in a hotel, know how to behave in different situations, and learn to empathize with colleagues and customers. Employees learn to perfect day-to-day operations, from cleaning hotel rooms to checking in guests. According to hotel chain managers, this approach to training helps employees to maintain top-class services.

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Immersive teaching simulations like TeachLivE teach educators how to deal with stressful situations in the classroom. Teachers learn to manage their emotions and behavior when situations with students gets out of control. If a teacher sees that they are not coping, they stop the program to work on problem areas.

How VR Will Improve Education

VR enhances education. According to educator Micah Shippee, PhD, this technology is changing education for the better, providing affordable learning tools that will bring more benefits to schools. VR will solve problems and take education to the next level. Immersive technology allows:

  • Pupils to delve into educational materials, regardless of their abilities. According to the CDC, more than 6 million American children have been officially diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In addition, teachers face the problem of the “distracted generation,” when modern schoolchildren who are accustomed to innovation find it difficult to receive traditional education. VR is in front of the students’ eyes, “forcing” them to interact with the environment and memorize the material.
  • To break down language barriers. According to Statista, in 2019 English was a foreign language for 22.6% of US schoolchildren. It is difficult for the newly arrived to adapt and quickly learn the language. They do not understand the material, which affects academic performance. A virtual classroom has a language translation function, so you can organize lessons in any language.
  • To provide inclusion. VR models are easy to adapt to learners with disabilities. For example, some immersive environments change color contrast, font size, or add audio commentary. Special gloves, like SignAloud, are connected to other virtual classrooms. They help to translate the gestures of people with hearing and speech impairments into speech and vice versa.
  • To adapt the process for each participant. In conditions when there are about 30 people in a class, it is difficult to organize personal training. VR gives a chance to measure the productivity of an individual student and adapt the method, teaching style, and pace.
  • To establish learning through practice. Theory without practice is easily forgotten. VR supports experiential learning and students’ interest in the subject. Numerous studies confirm that VR reduces cognitive load, and it is easier for learners to memorize even complex and abstract topics.

Conclusion

The education system has evolved over the centuries, always adapting to new technologies and the needs of students. The new generation of schoolchildren is accustomed to quickly receiving information through smartphones; they are not interested in studying according to the old programs.

VR provides the optimal compromise between students and educators. The technology recreates a comfortable environment for the modern student, which makes learning relevant, interesting, and interactive. In the future, when VR in education is used on a full scale by schools, we will see amazing results.

Guest Post

About the Guest Author(s)

Alexander Khomich
Alexander Khomich
CEO | | + posts

Alexander Khomich is the CEO and co-founder of Andersen Lab. He has significant experience with generating actionable insights from large-scale data sets. His interests include machine learning, finance, and technology. Being a part of the IT family for years, he aims at transforming IT processes in support of business transformation.