VR in Education: A Pathway to immersive learning

“Classrooms are broken. Kids don’t learn the best
by reading books.” 

Virtual Reality (VR) is slowly taking over our
entertainment industry. But what are the implications
for other areas of our lives, such as business, health,
and even…education?
We’ve been hearing a lot over the past few years about
how virtual reality has the potential to transform the
way we learn and teach, from providing in-depth know‐
ledge and helping us understand complex subjects to
facilitating language immersion and virtual trips.
Although in theory VR technology should be an amaz‐
ing tool for learning and teaching, the reality is that it’s
been slow to take off in educational settings, in large
part due to the fact that it’s still so costly to implement.
Even so, predictions are that by 2019 VR will start
becoming mainstream, and some of the major
players in the education and technology sectors
including Google and Facebook are already pursuing
applications for the classroom.
To give you an idea of how VR will eventually facilitate
learning, we decided to take a look at some of the
most notable examples of how virtual reality is already being used by schools and learning institutions
around the world.
1. Architecture and Design
Schools are also finding that virtual reality technology
is a great way to spark students’ creativity and keep
them engaged, especially when it comes to architec‐
ture and design. For the last three years, David Beach,
assistant professor at the Drury University Hammons
School of Architecture, has been researching ways to
apply VR technology in his field and believes it opens
up countless possibilitiesin architectural design.
2. Game-based learning
Virtual reality will likely completely change the
way games can be used for learning. Game-based
learning works because in increases engagement
and motivation, and virtual reality can take this
to the next level.
Jane Wilde, an instructor at Marlboro College in
Vermont who has been using games and simulations
in her lessons for some time now, notes that
although virtual reality games are not the only source
of fun and engagement in class, they can make a
substantial difference.
3. Skills training
Virtual reality simulations can also help students learn practical skills, and one of the biggest benefits to training people in this way is that students can learn
from realistic scenarios without the risk of practicing
an unfamiliar skill in an uncontrolled real-life situation.
An experiment carried out by Google’s Daydream
labs found that people who got VR training learned
faster and better than those who were merely shown
video tutorials. The interactive learning experiment
was aimed at teaching coffee making, and students
were either shown a YouTube tutorial on how to pull
espresso shots or allowed to practice it in VR.
VR as the Future of Education
The most recognized educational institutions on the
worldwide level are deeply committed to tradition. For
this reason, implementing teaching methods that
haven’t been possible in the past happens at a
very slow rate. Nonetheless, whatever slow the
implementation is, VR is inevitably coming to a point
where it is a part of our educational system.
1. VR Will Reduce the Competition
As impossible as this sounds, it is very likely to
happen. VR technology will not only provide more
learning opportunities but also reduce the competition
problems we face in the educational system
today. Competition is one of the biggest hallmarks
of education today and students from across the globe see competition as the key to success. It definitely should not be this way. Even though
competition increases the motivation, it should never
reduce the interest in actual learning. By introducing
VR, the educational institutions can adapt the tools
and allow the student to learn at his own pace.
VR is one great shot at making education more
effective and easier, both for teachers and
students. This is just the beginning of the integration
of VR technology, but it is already clear that this
integration will go a long way.
2. The flight simulators
Virtual reality will allow students to practice real-world
skills that are too dangerous, or too expensive, or
too rare for novice students to attempt, and it will
allow professionals to keep honing and expanding
their skills. Medical students can practice surgeries,
ecologists can practice identifying rare species,
language students can practice new vocabulary,
mechanics can practice tricky repairs, sales people
can practice their scripts, and, of course, new pilots
can practice flying airplanes.
3. Values and socialization
Virtual reality will open up the possibilities for
modeling values and other behaviors. Medical
training simulations aimed at medical professionals
in emerging countries, for example, could help make
hand-washing an automatic habit not only by having the students wash their hands when needed, but also
by having other professionals do so as a matter of
course, helping to model the behavior. Virtual reality
can help convey the joy of discovery and scientific
exploration, model a love of mathematics. Or convey
basic social skills like tolerance and mutual respect.
Virtual Reality offers an exhilarating way of
rediscovering the familiar world through an unfamiliar
lens. As Michael Heim posits in his 1993 book, The
Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, VR has signaled an
ontological shift in how human beings interact with
and utilize technology. However, the most important
question for educators and developers alike pertains
to the optimum utilization of our technological
innovations and the ways in which we can harness
their power to shape the future of education.
Several challenges persist in the education system
today and may continue do so in the future, hence
our aim must be to use immersive technologies
such as VR and AR to address those challenges by
designing dynamic and creative solutions. Immersive
technologies can drive forward the advancement of
learning and teaching by providing interactive and
engaging content to students, enabling active forms of
learning, facilitating productive forms of assessment,
promoting pedagogy-supported implementation of
educational technology in the classroom, and most importantly, nurture ecosystems of learning where
students become the enthusiastic agents of
their own education.