Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to transform the way we learn and teach, such as explaining complex subjects, teaching languages and even taking students on virtual trips.
In theory, VR technology should be wonderful for learning and teaching, but the reality is that it has been slow to take off in the real educational world. This is most likely due to its costly implementation. Nonetheless, some of the major players in the education and technology sectors are already pursuing applications for the classroom.
Even though VR is not readily available in every classroom, programs such as Google Cardboard aim to make VR headsets cheap and accessible. Moreover, most students in developed and developing countries own a smartphone now, and phones are becoming more and more affordable. Here are some of the applications of VR.
There are many apps being developed for educational purposes. A VR app called Star Chart helps students to learn about constellations by aiming their phones at the night sky. Now with over 20 million users, this app has additional features that allow students to interact with facts about planets and space discovery, bringing the universe a little closer.
Another app called Cleanopolis helps students to learn about climate change. This interactive app teaches students about CO2 and they battle alongside Captain Clean to save the world. This app is a fun game with educational benefits that would be great in any science classroom.
There’s an app for biology students too. Anatomy 4D shows the inner workings of the human body in action for the benefit of students.
Full immersion is one of the best ways to learn a new language. The idea is to make the student listen to and speak the language they are learning every day, all day. Since most people cannot afford the luxury of traveling to another country for weeks or months, virtual immersion could be the next best thing.
VR simulations can actually be used to trick the brain into thinking the experiences are real. A few new language learning apps that use VR are now being developed using this concept. For example, the Unimersiv app, which can be used together with the Oculus Rift headset, allows learners to connect with people from all over the world and practice their language skills. They practise while playing games and interacting with each other in a virtual world.
VR simulations can be used to help students learn practical skills. Students can learn from realistic scenarios in a safe and controlled environment. The risks are minimized. Google’s Daydream labs conducted a study on this and found that people who experienced VR training learned faster and better than those who were merely shown video tutorials.
Architecture and Design
VR is a great way to get students interested and keep them engaged, even in architecture and design. Students at a primary school in Ireland have even constructed 3D models of historical Irish sites using VR and then visit them virtually. To take this a step further, the Oculus Rift enables architects to place viewers into computer-generated 3D models.