Virtual Reality (VR) has, for a long time now, felt like the technology that will have an inevitable, unavoidable, positive impact and future in education. Whether this means making educational experiences more accessible, or adding greater depth and/or understanding to courses, or even motivating students, VR has been held up as the poster child for educational development. Here we explore the reasons behind VR’s growing fan club in education.
The power of immediate engagement
Unlike traditional education settings — the chalkboard, the classroom etc — VR has a capacity to immediately engage and audience, capturing their attention and forcing them to think. This is incredibly important in an age where attention spans are dropping faster than ever before. According to scientists, smartphone use has left humans with such a short attention span
even a goldfish can hold a thought for longer. Researchers conducting a survey of 2,000 participants in Canada found that the average human attention span had fallen from 12 seconds in the year 2,000 to just eight seconds, one second shorter than that of a goldfish.
VR technology fills the space left by silent classrooms and dusty teachers. Rather, it forces audiences – be they school pupils or university students – to actively take part in their learning process in a way that captures their imaginations. With VR there is no coasting option of just sitting and listening. Students have to interpret and examine, in real time, the subject matter that is portrayed in front of them. In this way, VR is helping educators recapture class interest, boosting their efforts in the process.
The great scope of VR technology is its ability to build and capture interest. Additionally, no matter what age of students in the audience, they will always prefer to sit and watch something than just reading it. With VR’s interactive nature, students will be naturally motivated to learn using this breakthrough technology.
Major benefits of using VR include sustained audience interest, the ability to break down language barriers, and the ability to create environments that do not conform to traditional classroom ideals.
This is great for teachers who find it increasingly hard to create a productive and engaging environment within a classroom. With VR technology present in the education, students are also more keen to talk about their experiences within the VR programming. This encourages discussion and participation, even among quieter students.
Plumbing new depths
One of the many boons of VR technology in the classroom is that it provides a new dimension for students to explore. For example, history teachers can take students on a voyage of discovery through Ancient Greece, or for a geography class, a walk through the Earth’s crust. It provides students with the ability to look and see at their course material in
greater detail than they have previously experienced. It beats books and the online media hands down.
VR also allows for teachers to create an emotional connection between students and the subjects they are studying. Students that feel empathy towards the subjects of their studies because VR connects not just with their emotions, but also with their intellect. It gives them a gut reaction that forms a stronger memory in their mind of what they are learning. They
can feel the adrenaline of flying in the first aircraft, the joy of boarding the International Space Station, and many more great experiences besides. VR has the power to make students feel like they’re in someone else’s shoes.
VR is the future of education
VR – and perhaps the lesser celebrated Augmented Reality (AR) – are on course to save the future of education. As this article in Big Think notes, it brings students from a place of visualizing objects to actually seeing them. In ancient, dusty history textbooks, descriptions of world wonders, like the pyramids, can be replaced by a VR environment that puts students at the scene, making learning more fun, and engaging.
The fact is that the popularity and reach of VR is reaching further than ever before. The industry has been around for a while, but saw a spike in interest last year, and headsets became cheaper than they ever have been before. As the industry expands and costs continue to come down, the technology will become more and more accessible to both private and state run schools and
universities, providing students and pupils the whole world over with a new immersive experience for them to experience, enjoy, and learn from.
VR will have possibly the biggest impact on education since the dawn of the internet. Instead of merely having access to information, students will have the opportunity to live and breathe it in a way that they have never seen before. And that could be the saving grace for all of us.