Reinventing Education: Introducing VR to the classroom

Never in a million years would we have thought that we would be living through a global pandemic. The recent nCOV-19 outbreak is drastically changing the way we study, work, and communicate with one another. We are now forced to look to what existing solutions technology can offer to bridge the gap that nCOV-19 presents. When we are apart, what can we do to stay closer together? In terms of socializing, business practices, and education, what can we do to prepare for a crisis like this?

Many of us are still privileged enough to be able to study or work from home. Though, that usually entails watching video after video to learn our material. Sites like Coursera, Edx, and Khan Academy are platforms for online learning through video format and is an excellent platform we can all explore to expand our learning horizons. However, studies suggest that most people begin to get distracted right around 6 minutes of video learning. As human beings, we crave stimulation and understanding and it’s no different when it comes to learning that we crave interaction.

Online video learning

At this point in time, just lecturing through Skype or Zoom is not going to be enough. Not only are our attention span for videos short, students have a host of other distractions present at home. Some companies like Nearpod provides a great portal for teachers to put together creative and interactive study materials for their classes. Termed the technology that fuels connectivity, students stay connected through collaborative assignments or assessments. As a result, this increases interactivity and socialization between classmates and teachers.

reinventing education - nearpod

Online video learning has brought us plenty of convenience at a time like this. However, it is always good to introduce new avenues of learning to students as not only that each student learns differently, but also to enlighten students of new technological advances and their potential real world applications. With that said, one of these tools is virtual/augmented reality (VR/AR). VR/AR is a tool known for its high immersion and its impact in reinventing education is undeniable.

So what do we do to increase our focus and efficiency in learning? VR may hold the answer to that question.

Due to VR’s nature of immersiveness, experts have said that virtual environments can actually be beneficial to help increase focus and cut out any distractions. It may be worthwhile for schools to invest in VR tools that their students can take advantage of. In the classroom, students can get an in-depth view of their study material. Other than that, they can also take virtual field trips without having to leave their classroom. It’s incredibly beneficial as well for students who have difficulties with moving.

At a time like this though, it might be possible to allow students to loan headsets from schools to take home to continue their learning through VR.

Incorporating VR/AR into the classroom

ClassVR is definitely on its way to reinventing education with their VR for classroom headsets. With over 800 curriculum-aligned subjects, students can go through their courses following the pace of their school. They can also choose to skip ahead and do some course exploration by themselves. Students will be able to get up close and personal with their subject matter, and education through “doing” instead of just reading and observing is achievable with VR learning.

reinventing education - classvr

Plenty of other parties are also developing education programs in virtual reality. Companies like Schell Games, the people behind popular VR puzzle title I Expect You to Die and the new sword fighting melee game Until You Fall, are one of the many who strives to bridge the gap between education and entertainment. Microsoft has also announced last year that they will be releasing their Immersive Reader as a virtual application. The move is done to support students in practicing their reading in a virtual space for a distraction free learning experience.

Benefits of VR in the classroom

When we are all stuck at home, VR is important to keep us connected with one another and help us immerse ourselves in learning. However, this is not to say that we should revert “back to normal” once the lock down has been lifted. Even after the lock down lifts, VR can still be implemented in the classrooms for a host of other benefits. Those benefits include:

  • convenience for outdoor exploration
  • expanding possibilities of learning material (eg. subjects that are not normally taught in schools)
  • opportunities to observe and demonstrate how learned materials can be applied in the real world
  • stay connected even while physically distanced
  • include less able-bodied students in activities

As a demonstration of how VR can be applied in classroom settings, here is how the National University of Singapore is reinventing education by building their classrooms in a VR social game called Rec Room:

Positive effects of VR in classrooms are abundant, however, as with every new technological improvement, it’s important to have the support of our local leaders in implementing these new technologies into our current education system in order to enhance our way of teaching and learning. Our society can only move forward if we all work towards it together.

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