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Four ways how education industry benefits from virtual reality

(Image credit: Image Credit: Knight Center for Journalism / Flickr)

Education should be constantly developing. Our world changes fast and education has to catch up with the general pace and adopt new, better ways to teach. One of the most progressive and promising technology of today is virtual reality. Here is a look at how VR contributes to the education industry.

Engagement increase

Studying is boring. Many remember their school years as a series of neverending lessons with a rare flash of interest in a chemistry lab. Virtual reality changes the very attitude of students who by default take studying as a necessary evil.

Immersive experience is a completely new and fascinating way to present material, practice new skills and have fun at the same time. Virtual environment is highly flexible and allows creating custom solutions for every school and subject to achieve maximum engagement and motivate students in their pursuit of knowledge.

The motivational effect of virtual reality in education is based on several points:

  • Emotional response

People are eager for new impressions and new emotions. Virtual reality immerses students into a realistic environment which amazes, awes and thrills. It makes the experience really memorable and the educational process more enjoyable. Hunters Lane High School (opens in new tab), for example, used Google Earth VR to show the students various places around the world. Amazed by what they saw, the students showed more interest and engagement in learning about the locations they visited virtually.

  • Gamification

If you ask children to read a book, they will likely be unhappy about it. If you ask them to compete who reads faster, they will take it completely differently. Introducing an element of competition and gaming makes education much more attractive in the eyes of the young.

Virtual reality allows teachers to gamify every lesson: from simple actions like “open the door” or “choose an option” to a more complex multiplayer experience. Gaming element can be logically incorporated into the topic of the lesson. For example, in a Prehistoric era VR workshop, students play a game of gathering and hunting while learning about ancient people’s lifestyle.

2. Easy access

Being educated is the right and privilege of every person. However, some people can be limited in their access to it because of many reasons, like disability, special needs or distance. Virtual reality is a great solution to all these issues.

Students with special needs require a special approach. It is a well-known fact and teachers are in a constant search of better ways to educate such children and introduce the world to them. Virtual reality can be a useful tool in this process. At the University of Haifa, there was created a set of virtual simulations that teach children with autism to cross a road. The study shows that hearing-impaired children also benefit from using VR in their education. (opens in new tab) Surely, soon VR developers along with teachers and scientists will come up with more solutions for special education.

Distance education for some is a better choice and for other is a necessity. Virtual reality is an answer for all of them. Instead of sitting in front of a computer reading or video chatting, students can get a full impression of being in a classroom. The University of British Columbia provides its students an opportunity to visit a lecture using VR Chat. (opens in new tab) They can even speak and interact with other participants while enjoying the lecture in the comfort of their home.

3. Better way to practice

Theory is nothing without practice. But one thing is to make a typical experiment in a school lab and completely different is to experience something massive and exciting. Virtual reality allows students to experiment with things they don’t have access to at school or take a usual practical lesson to a new level.

Many skills students want to master may be potentially dangerous or impossible to conduct at school. In such cases, the necessary environment can be simulated virtually: driving, car mechanics, chemical experiments, first aid. While being completely safe, these experiences have great educational value as students are able to try themselves how everything works and improve their skills. For example, for biology enthusiasts there was designed software that simulates frog dissection. (opens in new tab)  

Even traditional ways to train and educate can be enhanced with VR. Rare foreign language lesson doesn’t include the use of one. However, many agree that a classroom language and a real one are not the same. Today there exists a large number of VR applications that can improve language learning. (opens in new tab) Some put a learner into a situation where everything is written or spoken in a foreign language and they have to do tasks within the situation. Other applications allow people from all over the world to connect in a virtual space and improve their language skills while playing and communicating.

4. Better social interaction

Social skills should also be taught. Children should learn how to treat other people, how to interact in a group and what norms society has. Virtual reality can be used as a means of such training making them more enjoyable and productive.

In the virtual reality experience, the participants see only a representation of other students. Interaction with digital avatars makes such sessions easier for shy or insecure people. At the same time, a carefully written plot adds real value to the experience. VR scenarios can focus on issues like bullying and racism, teach how to show mutual respect and how to express empathy. Children can see what the world looks like through the eyes of disadvantaged people and better understand their struggle.

Social scenarios can even go global. Stanford University, for example, created a VR experience that shows what our world may look like in the future. (opens in new tab) The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience takes students on the trip to the coral reefs. As the time in the experience is fast forwarded, the participants can see how the reefs die because of people’s interaction. Such a simple trick awakes many emotions and encourages people to be more respectful and more responsible for our planet.

It is much easier to believe when one sees what to believe in. The power of virtual reality for education lays in its visualising opportunities, an innovation that amazes and endless solutions range. Soon enough every school will go the way of adopting virtual reality on a larger scale. And soon enough we will see how virtual reality changes the real world.

Viktor Bogomolov, CEO, VR Tigers (opens in new tab)
Image Credit: Knight Center for Journalism / Flickr

Viktor Bogomolov is a CEO of VR Tigers, a VR/AR development company that creates custom solutions for various businesses. He believes in the power of technology and their future.