Since around 2015, businesses of all kinds have become ever more aware of the uses of virtual reality outside of the entertainment industry. Many have been convinced of the power of the technology to transform the way in which businesses communicate with customers, train staff or work as a team. However, it’s not just marketing messages that stick better when delivered via virtual reality.
The education sector is now beginning to take advantage of emerging VR tech to improve the way in which they deliver information to students and, to put it simply, to help our kids learn more.
Here, we explore practical ways that educational institutions might introduce VR to the classroom in order to get the most from the impressive technology.
Using VR to get students engaged in the classroom
Technology companies have been working on virtual reality for decades and their obsession is all due to one fact – virtual reality is incredibly engaging for users. As virtual reality has achieved huge leaps forward in realism in recent years, its power to engage has been amplified accordingly. Its rare to find someone who isn’t absolutely captivated by a deep sea dive in VR or a narrated visit to the top of Mount Everest. Virtual reality wows the viewer and holds their attention like nothing before.
Many of our partners in the field of education have told us that getting students to feel engaged with the learning material is often just as much of a challenge as helping them to understand the meaning of it. How often have we heard stories of intelligent youngsters who struggle to pay attention when presented with drier content? In our always-connected multimedia age, printed text and notes on the blackboard are sadly at a disadvantage. Even very young students have already been conditioned at home by the hyper-stimulating world of online video and social media, and their futures are likely to include more of the same.
Virtual reality technology gives educators the opportunity to package up learning content into these highly engaging formats that the kids are both familiar with and can’t get enough of. Some of us are old enough to remember how excited a classroom full of students would get when the school’s only TV and VCR would be wheeled out for a screening of an educational video. A fleet of VR headsets may well be this generation’s equivalent.
A study by independent nonprofit Common Sense Media found that 70% of 8-15 year olds expressed an interest in virtual reality, which has to be a sign that VR ought to be one of the ways in which we take the latest and greatest tech and use it to heighten engagement amongst students.
Use VR to allow students to learn more from home
Currently, only around 20% of household have access to virtual reality, but as this number rises, we’re likely to see more extra-curricular type content delivered at home via virtual reality headsets.
While already stretched teachers only have so many hours in a day, VR content will allow subject matter experts to deliver lessons to students on demand, as if they were in the room. While you might struggle to convince your children to pick up a book about natural history, they’re sure to get on board with a virtual lesson on the prehistoric world – especially if they get to see the dinosaurs up close!
By developing educational VR content for children and students and assisting parents in providing this content to their children at home, we can help children to continue learning when they are away from school and their parents are too busy to teach the child themselves. Children today are already active online, using technology to access streams of content for entertainment. By providing them with educational content in the formats that excite them, we encourage them to continue their learning journey in their own time. While it remains essential that parents teach their children at home, educational virtual reality content could make for a positive replacement to hours spent playing Fortnite and watching YouTube vlogs.
Best practice for VR for education
Quite reasonably, many parents and educators have concerns about how access to virtual reality could negatively affect their children and students.
As on any Internet-connected device, there is content available that isn’t suitable for children. The first concern of anyone using VR in the classroom should be to ensure that they are carefully considering and monitoring what content young students may have access to. As VR continues to be adopted in schools, more child-friendly VR platforms will become available, blocking off access to anything other than pre-approved VR experiences.
While parents main concerns tend to revolve around their children accessing inappropriate content, studies have shown that carefully selected pro-social content can help the development of children’s social and emotional learning skills.
As well as carefully considering the content students have access to, teachers and parents must also think about the amount of time their eager learners spend in VR. Common Sense Media recommend using VR in moderation in the classroom – more specifically, it’s advised that VR experiences for children should run no longer than 20 minutes.
Online learning has been one of the most valuable industries to come out of the invention of the Internet and the addition of VR content as part of online learning courses will bridge the gap between online students and their tutors.
While it’s unlikely that we’ll see educational content delivered via virtual reality headsets replacing face-to-face teaching any time soon, it’s near certain that schools will be taking advantage of the benefits of virtual reality in a big way over the coming decade.
By creating content, enabling access and carefully monitoring usage, we can all participate in making VR the next big thing in education.
We hope that the tips we’ve laid out will help you to see how VR could be put to best use in your classroom. If you could benefit from further assistance or are interested in hiring VR headsets with educational content pre-loaded, please contact us and we’ll be happy to discuss your needs.