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Though the world of virtual reality is still in its early phases, we’re all anticipating the ways it will change the world. It still has a way to go, but it’s becoming more mainstream in gaming with things like PlayStation VR, making it possible to connect virtual reality play with one of the most popular gaming consoles in the world. It’s also in the process of changing the way soldiers, pilots, doctors, and dentists learn their trade. And it’s still yet to be seen how virtual reality in education will change the way we learn and think forever. If you’re just as curious as we are, keep reading for 10 ways VR can totally revolutionize education.
What Is Virtual Reality?
Imagine putting on a headset and stepping into another world entirely—a world where anything is possible. That’s virtual reality. By putting on a headset or a pair of special glasses or goggles, you could step into any number of virtual environments that you could explore, interact with, and manipulate in ways that technology still has yet to fully explore. Currently, VR is mostly associated with video games, which makes total sense given that you can essentially enter another universe and engage in sword fights, cast magic spells, or drive a race car—things you could never do without the aid of amazing tech like this.
As of now, the worlds you can enter with VR are still very limited. Some of them let you escape to virtual environments filled with mind-blowing details, but they are all rather small compared to the big world we live in. As the tech becomes more mainstream and advanced, expect to find more open-world games that let you have access to entire cosmoses filled with potential. Virtual reality as a way to watch movies is already being heavily experimented with, and different professions are using the tech for job training. It’s not crazy to think VR will become much more common in the future and have endless applications.
How Does It Work?
Before exploring the ways virtual reality in education is going to change the way people learn, it’ll be helpful to get a cursory understanding of the way the tech actually works. On the surface, it’s really pretty simple. The headsets contain one, or ideally, two screens (stereoscopy allows you to have a better illusion that the environment you’re in is 3D) and newer models typically have sensors embedded in them that track the movement of your head. There are also more systems making use of handheld controllers that have sensors that relay what your hands are doing, making it possible to manipulate the virtual environment.
10 Ways Virtual Reality in Education Will Change the Way We Learn and Think
Having an understanding of what virtual reality is and how it works is one thing, but now we’re at the fun part—thinking about ways virtual reality in education is going to totally revolutionize the way students, young and old, learn about hundreds of subjects and train for their future in the workforce. Some of these ways may seem almost science fiction-y, but with the invention of virtual reality, the possibilities opened up have become endless. When it comes to the realm of education, with the ability to step into new worlds with the flick of a switch, learning could be about to change in some really big ways.
Virtual Field Trips
While there’s no substitute for the real thing, virtual reality may give you the closest experience to it. Want to take your students to the Grand Canyon for their geography lesson? Slip on your headsets kids; it’s time to take a field trip. Want to show your students Mount Rushmore for their American History class? Go ahead and get the VR goggles out. Need to have your kids appreciate various architectural wonders like the Taj Mahal, the Eiffel Tower, or the Golden Gate Bridge? There’s no better way than to let them get up close and personal in a virtual world where they can get every angle and interact with the environment.
For a while, it’ll likely only be like a high-def movie on steroids. However, there are already games and the like that allow you to maneuver in computer-generated reconstructions of certain real-life places with graphics and animation that actually isn’t so bad. As things progress, it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that we’ll have totally life-like replicas of actual locales that you can explore and interact with similarly to how you would in the real world. This is just one way that virtual reality in education could change the world forever and give students opportunities that previous generations never imagined possible.
OK, so you’re not technically going back in time. But there are already programs that allow you to visit places like the Roman Colosseum. VR opens up the possibility of access to virtual recreations of historical places and events that allow students to experience them for themselves.
More Engaging Learning Experiences
Most students already find school boring enough, and it’s no secret that the key to effective learning is being totally engaged with the subject. With virtual reality, this becomes a cinch. Providing students with truly engaging learning experiences is no problem if they’ve got access to virtual reality systems. With attention spans getting shorter and with kids already having access to the internet and the digital world, being able to offer them educational content that actually gets them excited about the learning process is crucial. Giving them fully immersive environments to learn in is a fantastic way to do just that.
Students of architecture may be able to show off models of their designs that simply can’t be equaled by current methods. While time consuming, it might even be possible to build full-scale replicas that showcase functionality and aesthetic. This can apply to other fields of study that involve concept designs too.
Virtual reality is already being used to help certain professionals train for their roles in the workforce. However, by making the same experiences available to students, they can prepare for their career paths in ways that have never been done before. Nurses, surgeons, and dentists can learn how to provide care for patients in low risk environments. Army personnel and police offers can train for dangerous situations without leaving the room. There are hundreds of jobs that virtual reality could help students prepare for. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see virtual reality training classes being offered by universities relatively soon.
Teachers have been using computer games to help students learn for decades. There is so much potential for the types of games you could let students play if they have access to a virtual reality system.
Revolutionize Online Learning
With the ability to use virtual reality online comes the possibility of interacting with other people. And as online classes are already a popular option for students, VR could majorly shake up the learning process. Imagine sitting right next to your teacher’s avatar for their lecture while munching cereal on your couch, or being in a virtual room full of classmates that you may never meet in real life. As of now, many online college classes suffer from the drawback of impersonality; that could change forever with VR. While there is a long way to go before this happens, it may even let your appearance remain the same.
This one goes hand-in-hand with online learning. Students can get together using avatars in a virtual environment to study together, plan presentations, and even compose group research papers, all without leaving their dorm rooms. VR has the potential to make meet-ups a heck of a lot easier.
Some classes may benefit from having students slip on a headset to see your illustrations and equations come to life right before their eyes. It also opens up the possibility for you to “call students to the blackboard” and yet they’ll never have to leave their seats to participate.
This one’s particularly tricky, as the virtual world would have to follow the same laws of nature that we do. However, imagine physics students being able to check their work by seeing if their equations actually do accurately represent how far that ball will travel with certain amounts of force and friction applied.
Although the world of VR is still very new, it’s incredibly exciting to think of the possibilities this amazing technology has opened up. It’s not only useful for playing video games, but there is also a crazy amount of potential for the applications of virtual reality in education. It could allow you to take virtual field trips, travel back in time, get hands-on practice for future careers, and totally revolutionize how online learning platforms work. If things follow the current trend, then the future of our world is heavily intertwined with advancements in virtual reality systems. VR can transform education in ways no other tech ever could.