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.