Virtual Reality in Education

Virtual reality took its beginning in the entertainment area, but over time it got the practical use too. And education did not stand aloof. The main goal of Virtual Reality in education is to make studying process exciting and more effective. VR simulations provide a deep understanding of the material by a learner with its further application in real life.

The strongest proof that virtual reality can make good for the education system is, in a way, the human brain. The fact is that the brain tends to remember 10% of what it reads, 20% of what it hears, and 90% of what it does or simulates. So let’s see what VR technology can actually bring to the table in terms of education in 2018 and beyond.

“Learn as if you were to live forever” – Mahatma Gandhi.

Are we ready?  

This year Mobile World Congress, held in Barcelona, confirmed the continuation of work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals program (SDGs). The purpose of the program is to fight injustice, inequality, and challenges of our time. One of its 17 goals is providing the quality education for everyone and promoting the lifelong learning. Thus, we are sure about increasing mobility of education and enriching it with a virtual format in the nearest time.

Despite all advantages, virtual reality is yet far from widespread implementation into education. In spite the fact 97% of students would like to study some VR courses, only 23% of schools have tested the VR, and about 10% are planning to use it the next year or two.

Titans of Space VR. Credit: Steampowered

The latest polls among the teachers show the following:

  • 68% want to use VR to supplement course for the better apprehension of educational material by the students;
  • 72% would like to use a VR simulation to reproduce real-life experience related to course content;
  • 69% are ready for virtual traveling to distant destinations (Great Chinese Wall or Stonehenge) or inaccessible locations, such as other planets and space;
  • 42% of 9-12 grades’ teachers believe that using VR for college campuses tours can help teenagers make their choice of future university.

While most teachers consider that VR will benefit mainly science (82%), social studies (81%) and history (81%), researchers found the following trends:

52% 29% 20% 15% 12% 10% 9% 23%
Science History Engineering Arts Mathematics Design Literature   Other courses

Before we go into advantages of virtual reality in education, we should also name the key stop-factors, slowing VR down so far. These include: lack of quality VR content, high cost, headaches related to HMDs, potentially lesser communication in person, wrong perception of classes as games.

Applications of Virtual Reality in education

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All the practical use of VR in education can be divided into two main groups: school/university studying and workplace learning. Practical applications of VR may be the following.

  • Virtual Fields Trips

The most common and obvious use of VR is providing the ability of virtual visits to distant or physically inaccessible places.

  • Special Education

For people with the physical disabilities studying and exploring the world through a VR headset is a great option to get educated.

  • Content Creation

Currently, virtual reality courses are most often created for the science and history classes. Though in fact, the virtual format can be applied to any subject and theme.

  • Medical Programs

The big part of investments in VR education is directed towards training medical students and personnel. Different trainee programs are aimed to prepare doctors and nurses, and simulations help practice different clinical cases and improve skills.

Credit: InMind VR
  • Training

Most students say that studying complex material through practical tasks provides a better understanding of the subject. VR can provide a suitable and manageable environment for any kinds of training.

  • Distant Learning

With VR, online learning becomes more convenient and can even provide the sense of presence. Potentially, virtual classes have a chance to compete with traditional schools, but only as soon as VR becomes affordable.

  • Design

VR can aid design and modeling to progress to a qualitatively different level. This technology allows the creation of 3D models, displaying all details and features, editing, transformation, and testing in virtual environments.

  • Recruiting

Visiting a university via the virtual tour is a great chance to become familiar with the learning process and campus life while choosing the future “alma mater”.

Credit: ClassVR.

What is it good for

Virtual reality makes the classic studying process a really fascinating experience. With its help a classroom is not limited to four walls, science subjects don’t lack the ingredients or tools, biology and anatomy can visualize the information.

Visualization. The most obvious benefit of using VR in education (for any other sphere it is also true) is the advanced way of visualization. Virtual reality has become the universal tool to display objects, processes, locations, and historical events.

Improvement of education quality. As visualization helps to understand and remember,  students can get even more immersive experiences with training simulations. VR is proven capable of fitting any school and university subject or program.

Credit: Virtual Speech.

Active participation. These days, millennials may perceive conventional classroom studying a bit boring. Integrating VR into a curriculum is one way to enhance the learning process for them. Besides generating interest, VR can also remove distractions on a smartphone.

No language barriers. For international students, the language barrier often can be a problem. With virtual reality, studying materials in any foreign language can be implemented into VR software.

Improving appraising system. The research asserts that immediate rewarding positively impacts students’ further performance. Instead of traditional pointing out mistakes and failures, VR brings gamification aspects into the learning process, providing encourageable rewards systems.

Few examples of educational VR

In the beginning, VR content for educational purposes was mostly created for science subjects. Now, development companies launch new VR software for all disciplines, based on colleges and universities demand.

Unimersiv is one of largest platforms for VR education. The company creates a variety of VR content for schools (anatomy, visiting tour to ancient Rome, the Acropolis of Athens and Stonehenge, learning dinosaurs in VR, etc) and corporate training.

The app King Tut VR provides the full experience of immersion into ancient history. The VR tour guides viewers into the tomb of Tutankhamun with a 360-degree virtual environment full of historical artifacts.

Discovery channel continues its work of exploring our world and sharing knowledge about it. Their new app, Discovery VR, provides the immersive experience by watching virtual videos of incredible places of our planet.

The VR simulation Apollo 11 recreates the events of July 1969 Moon landing. It is a new type of documentary, where you can control and fly the command module, land the lunar lander, explore the Moon’s surface and deploy some experiments.

One of the most graphical apps from Google, Tilt Brush, helps to create art in 3D space with lots of possibilities. By using a wide range of dynamic brushes and variety of interfaces, students and artists can use any virtual space as a canvas to create a real masterpiece and even share as animated gifs.

Most likely, in 2018 we are going to see cost reduction for VR hardware and products, better content and increased overall promotion. If so happens, VR has a chance to drastically change the way we learn and teach.

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