When people hear about virtual reality (VR), images of a person wearing a headset and holding a gaming console usually come to mind. However, for the education sector, VR is an opportunity to finally connect with both learners and teachers in a novel and meaningful way. For example, EON Reality collaborated with Oral Roberts University to create the Global Learning Center, a dedicated facility for augmented and virtual learning.
As the global executive director of the global VR/AR Association, I've watched our 3,900-plus registered companies and our Education Committee and Training Committee work on best practices, guidelines and standards to accelerate the VR/AR industry for all, one committee in particular being devoted to education and training.
Today, VR can enable experiential learning by simulating real-world environments. Students can test their skills, record their work and interact with experts all within VR. Students have responded overwhelmingly positively to active learner engagement. A recent study shows that "93 percent of teachers say their students would be excited to use virtual reality and 83 percent say that virtual reality might help improve learning outcomes." This points to a universal trend as these students will soon enter universities and then the workforce, where job training scenarios will become the new classroom.
For visual learners and individuals with learning challenges, VR provides an alternative medium to meet their needs. Likewise, educators see increased engagement levels and improved test scores across the board with VR education programs. Hands-on learning techniques like VR education directly contribute to increased cognitive memory.
The benefits of incorporating VR/AR tech into educational experiences include better, more immediate engagement and the opportunity for learners to "feel" the experiences and better remember and express what they learned. A student can experience what was not possible to experience before and become better prepared for when such experiences occur in the real world.
The basic functionality of VR in education is to bring learning to life via a virtual environment. The more a learner is able to participate in life-like engagement, the easier it is to personally feel a connection to the subject material, making it easier for application and retention of the subject matter.
The most popular trends in VR learning include enterprise and education. In enterprise, Walmart is using VR to help train its employees on topics like management and customer service. Soon, all 200 of the company's U.S. training centers will use VR instruction to educate the estimated 150,000 employees going through the program annually.
In education, there's Star Chart, an iOS and Android app with over 20 million users that brings the universe a little closer. Users learn about astronomy by pointing their phones to the sky at night and utilize other features to learn about planets and space discovery.
It’s important to pay attention to this trend and adopt VR solutions in your organization to educate employees in new and better ways and teach students with more engaging and effective tools. However, like many new technologies before it, awareness is the first barrier to entry followed by cost and content.
Many are still not aware of VR training solutions that are proving to be effective. At The VR/AR Association we are doing our part to promote the industry and help organizations locate the best VR solutions for their use case. Meanwhile, quality VR headsets come at around $399 (already down from $599 ore more just a few months ago). Cost is steadily declining our research points to $199 being the sweet spot price point for “mass adoption.” Finally, better content — specific for each use case — is needed and is being created for enterprise use cases and educational curriculums.
In 2018 we will see the costs decrease, better content emerge and more awareness spread, which will propel the VR/AR education market to high growth.
Ultimately, VR in education will revolutionize not only how people learn but how they interact with real-world applications of what they have been taught. Imagine medical students performing an operation or geography students really seeing where and what Kathmandu is. The world just opens up to a rich abundance of possibilities.
By Amir-Esmaeil Bozorgzadeh, VRARA Amsterdam Chapter President. Original article posted on VentureBeat.
A research report recently published in China entitled “The Impact of VR on Academic Performance,” asserts that virtual reality improves student test scores and knowledge retention. VR-based learning also tends to leave no student behind since it is able to appeal to even the least responsive of users, the report states.
The study, which compared test performance of students who had learned a stubject via VR versus students who had learned by traditional means, suggests that VR could the secret sauce to learning that teachers have been dreaming about for years.
I can’t vouch for the credibility of the study. It’s unclear whether the companies that sponsored it — Beijing Bluefocus and Beijing iBokan Wisdom Mobile Internet Technology Training Institutions — have a vested interest in the VR space. But we’re hearing similar things from a couple of companies in Europe.
Last week, HTC aired the latest episode of its This is Real series, featuring a visit to the offices of Immersive VR Education, a two-year old startup based in the Viking city of Waterford, Ireland, a 90-minute drive from Dublin. The company makes Engage, a platform that changes the scope, scale, and substance of what distance learning can offer lecturers and students from all around the world when VR is brought into play.
“It’s not just something that’s a bit different. This is a new medium. It’s not what we’ve been traditionally doing,” David Whelan, CEO at Immersive VR Education, says at the start of the episode.
Engage is free, and lecturers and presenters can use it to rally up to 30 users into a single session. It can be used simply as the “PowerPoint for VR,” as a tool for conducting meetings, or for anything, really, that allows users to express and share ideas and collaborate in real time at the depth of digital experience only VR can offer. A teacher reading aloud from a textbook about prehistoric vegetation to a class of 20 can suddenly teleport everyone to a great grassy plain crowded with irate dinosaurs.
An early prototype of Engage went live on Steam about three months ago and has had 35,000 downloads to date. An update in January will roll in more features and accessible content.
This kind of technology transforms distance learning into the premium mode of education. And education goes from abstract to visceral in the blink of an eye.
With the availability of tools like this, we can expect to see VR have a significant impact on how we educate. One key feature is the immersive medium’s capacity to transport us into environments that heighten engagement by making subjects alive, interactive, and therefore relatable and relevant. Another is that it transcends physical limitations that, coupled with social features, can eliminate what is in reach for anyone, anywhere.
“I’m very excited about the concept of virtual lessons, in which a teacher instructs students inside a virtual classroom and can teleport them to various locations,” says Dominic Barnard, Cofounder at VirtualSpeech. “Imagine a history lesson, where after five minutes of going through slides, the whole class is teleported to the trenches in WW2 to experience what they have just learned with 360 images and videos.”
Barnard brings us to another application in particular where VR will have an impact: language learning.
A few weeks ago, the team at UK-based VirtualSpeech released the beta version of Language VR, their initial approach of tackling what is usually considered to be the tedious task of learning a new language. It’s already developed a variety of programs that teach vocabulary, grammar, games, roleplaying, and even culture.
For example, users get to explore different parts of the UK, immersed in stunning 360-degree images while learning English as part of the ride. The roleplaying scenarios allow travelers, for instance, to practice ordering a meal at a restaurant or booking a hotel room.
“People say the best way to learn a language is to visit the country. VR in a way does just that. It can immerse you in a different language and culture as if you were there.” Barnard said. “With improvements in speech-to-text and conversation modules, soon we’ll be able to have realistic conversations with virtual avatars in various countries and situations, such as ordering a train ticket in Paris or renting an apartment in London.”
One major barrier, of course, is getting this technology into schools. The K12 system isn’t known for its sizeable budgets or its swiftness in adopting new technologies.