We live in a world that is continuously transforming as technological advancements integrate into the seams of society. Will the education system also conform to these changes, and push past the boundaries of traditional classroom learning?
The traditional education system, still widely used today, involves consuming large amounts of factual information in short timeframes, mainly through reading. While this teaching style was practical in a pre-digital era, students today have mixed attitudes towards “hitting the books.” It is imperative that the education system evolves to foster contemporary students’ engagement with technological gadgets and enhance the learning experience with tools that take advantage of their aptitudes for technology.
Virtual Reality (VR) is one of these technological tools that can augment learning. It relies on the use of high-performance computers with high-fidelity graphical capabilities to immerse individuals in a realistic, three-dimensional virtual world. So, what’s the appeal?
Travel Without Boundaries
VR can help students traverse new worlds. From Ancient Rome to distant planets, the possibilities are endless. Such a tool would greatly improve the quality of distance learning. Students can learn about a subject by living it, which can involve the mind in ways that make learning more engaging, memorable, and motivating than ever before.
VR can allow for deeper engagement in science and engineering. Students can gain practical experience by conducting virtual experiments, building robots, and visualizing otherwise abstract concepts. Medical students could practice surgical procedures without needing cadavers or sacrificing animals.
With VR, students can escape standard group learning and learn in a way that is most comfortable for them. In the traditional classroom, a single teacher cannot feasibly meet the needs of each student under their charge, due to limited supplementary learning material in the classroom, a finite amount of time for teaching to occur, and insufficient opportunities for one-on-one student-teacher interactions. The VR experience can be tailored to the individual, as each student can journey through different guided learning environments at their own pace and have access to virtually unlimited resources to meet their learning objectives. In this scenario, the educator would evolve from being a teacher who delivers content to a facilitator who guides students in self-learning. An added bonus to this is that VR also makes learning more accessible to students with disabilities and eliminates language barriers through focusing more on spatial learning.
VR can provide all of the necessary “virtual tools” to pursue artistic endeavors, and allow for immersion into different cultures and time periods for inspiration. VR also provides a platform for international collaborations, where distance is not a barrier for sharing ideas.
Although VR has existed for decades, it was only with the recent transition into the digital era that we begin to appreciate VR as a means to revolutionize the education system. A Beijing study showed that VR-based teaching produced a significant boost in test scores among high school students, and those who scored below average with traditional learning benefitted the most. VR therefore shows immense promise as an educational tool.
Before its widespread implementation, however, additional considerations are necessary. VR equipment is currently expensive and inaccessible to low-socioeconomic status areas. Many VR features also require internet usage, so cyber security is needed. Safeguards against health and safety risks, such as emotional damage, are essential. Lastly, while VR can enhance learning, it cannot replace the importance of real-life interactions.
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- Radianti, J., Majchrzak, T. A., Fromm, J., & Wohlgenannt, I. (2020). A systematic review of immersive virtual reality applications for higher education: Design elements, lessons learned, and research agenda. Computers & Education, 147, 103778.
- Vive, H. T. C. (2016, December 8). New research suggests VR offers exciting new ways to unlock student potential. PR Newswire. https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/new-research-suggests-vr-offers-exciting-new-ways-to-unlock-student-potential-300375212.html
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