The 21st Century has witnessed a significant technological revolution in education and teaching methods. The latest trend in educational technology is virtual reality, often abbreviated as VR. For several years, virtual reality was a science fiction concept for most. Soon enough, the first virtual reality headset came into existence proving that almost everything can be possible. Despite numerous uses in entertainment and gaming, virtual reality technology has found its way into modern classrooms. The main aim this article is to highlight the effectiveness of using VR in the classroom, the advantages and disadvantages of virtual reality in schools and what the future holds for VR in education.

What is VR?

Virtual Reality is the use of computing technology aimed at creating an interactive simulated environment. VR places the learner inside an immersive virtual experience, instead of viewing a traditional screen, students can interact with digital 3D model worlds that are both educative and equally captivating, this an achieved through the use of a virtual reality headset. By simultaneously simulating senses such as vision, hearing, touch, even smell, a standard learning experience is transformed into a great study session. The only real limits to VR in education are the availability of cheap computing power and ready educational content. Following the quick pace of technological advancements, educational improvements are numerous, and the list is growing daily.

Virtual reality technology is one of the fastest growing trends. VR in classrooms comes complete with a broad range of engaging content along with structured lesson plans to help ignite the imagination of students. The main idea is to leave learners with memories and vital educational experiences that help better understand and visualize even the most complex of educational subjects. As technology slowly seems to be taking over many aspects of human society, the uptake of technology in education is as impressive as it can get. Modern-day education has gradually evolved to incorporate VR technology in the dissemination of information. This advancement has revolutionized the classroom environment leading to improved grades and learning experiences.

Common Applications Of Virtual Reality In The Classroom            

VR and education have been merged beautifully to provide a better learning experience for students, its applications in the classroom vary according to the level of education and the specific disciplines. Below are the top applications of virtual reality in today’s classrooms.

Virtual Field Trips

Class field trips have for ages been an important part of the educational curriculum. Just like regular field trips, virtual field trips are meant to be as entertaining as they are educational. The difference, however, is that with VR field trips, there is no need for schools buses and weeks of prior planning. The trips are not limited to a particular location but rather, VR allows the learners to take virtual trips to incredible places. From a journey to the solar system and its planets to Antarctica and areas that would otherwise be impossible for a school bus to voyage to, simulated field trips are boundless.

With the necessary resources, teachers can execute the perfect class trip all in the comfort of the classroom. VR technology just requires basic knowledge of computers and a clear lesson plan. A combination of the two aspects culminates in a successful virtual trip.

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3D Design

Virtual reality is perhaps most useful in the 3D design and modeling classes. The technology allows learners to visualize concepts learned in class in realistic 3-dimension rendering. This allows students to gain a deeper appreciation of 3D models and concepts behind them. The method allows improved virtual interaction with the intricate parts creating an immersive learning experience. Studies indicate that the uptake of VR technology in disciplines such as engineering and software design has led to improved student performance.

Anatomy Classes

VR technology in the classroom is particularly useful in anatomy studies. It allows an in-depth view of critical biological systems such as the circulatory system, digestive system, and others. It allows precise dissection and study of animals at a level previously unattainable. VR technology works in conjunction with allied software such as Autocad, providing detailed models of biological systems.

Advantages Of VR In Classrooms

Breathtaking Visualizations

VR technology allows educational displays that are typically impossible in the traditional classroom setting. Virtual reality is a great learning tool because it lets the students explore different realities and alternative learning experiences. Wearing a VR headset allows learners to encounter high-quality educational visualizations that impact positively on the whole process. It is a well-known fact that pictures help you learn better. By using virtual technology, learners take advantage of the visual aspects of learning to ensure they retain as much content as possible.  The traditional teaching methods however time-tested they are, can never match the effectiveness emphasizing content through visualization achieves.

Improvement In The Quality Of Education

Virtual reality has opened up new frontiers in education. By allowing a three-dimensional view of educational content, the learning experience improves, which typically means better grades and better application of the content in real life. VR helps students better understand lessons and find mistakes they would usually miss. This advantage of VR in the classroom cuts across various disciplines.

Increased Learner Participation

VR is as useful in today’s classrooms as it is intriguing. This simulation technology is a breath of fresh air that has enabled student-teacher interactions to improve. Traditional pedagogies are plain, simple and a bit boring. Adding a bit of technology in the equation revamps the whole experience. VR and education are, therefore, a recipe for success.

Students Connect With Technology

 In day-to-day life, technology occupies a significant place in students’ lives. When not in class, just about everything else that they do is in some way is connected to technology. Therefore, by integrating VR into the learning curriculum, teachers ensure a seamless transition from standard out-of-class-lives into the classroom. This method changes the way information is passed and provides the students with the necessary tools to take on the 21st century. Virtual reality has somewhat become a mainstream form of entertainment as more and more smartphone manufacturers embrace the technology. This means that it is unlikely that learners will be experiencing or coming into contact with the technology for the first time, though this greatly depends on an individual’s circumstances and a country’s technological status. 

Improved Content Retention Rates

It has been noted that using VR and education technology helps students to retain the material better. For instance, presenting material in interactive 3D form as opposed to traditional textbooks can have a massive impact on how much of the material the learners can recall. Studies have been conducted to test the effectiveness of related technologies in improving retention rates. The results as expected were impressive with an observed improvement on how much content the students remember when virtual reality was used in classrooms.

Disadvantages Of Deploying VR In Education

Cost Concerns

VR gear is typically costly to procure. For instance, Oculus Rift, perhaps the most common VR equipment available goes for a whopping five hundred USD ($500). Other models cost a few hundred dollars more than Oculus’ price tag. The question, however, doesn’t necessarily lie in the value. Rather, the quality is directly related to the price. Cheaper models have a poor quality of build which means schools have to invest quite an amount of money in VR headsets and computing equipment.

Deterioration In Social Connections

While technology and virtual reality, in particular, can be a vital asset for the most part in education, its main disadvantage is that it reduces human interaction. The traditional pedagogy of education is based on interpersonal human communication and connections. Virtual reality makes the whole experience different in that, the aspect of personal interactions is eliminated. There are just the student and the technology; no one else. The lack of proper communication skills can result in poor social skills which can cause problems later on in a professional setting.

Glitches and Functionality Issues

As with any other technology, VR gadgets may from time to time malfunction. This presents the need for a tech support department which further increases the amount of money necessary to keep the equipment running optimally. Repairing VR gear is an expensive prospect that limits its uptake in many classrooms and schools.

Addiction

Virtual reality is gripping and addictive, if not indulged in responsibly. In young learners, it is easy to get hooked on the virtual world and simply lose touch with reality. The effects are similar to drug addiction which makes VR and education a potentially dangerous match.

In Conclusion

Virtual reality is positioning itself as the next biggest advancement in educational technology. Teachers and learners alike are expected to make use of virtual reality technology to redefine the learning experience further. There are numerous tech players actively involved in developing VR technology with the likes of Samsung, Google, HTC Vive and Facebook leading the pack. The future of virtual reality in education certainly seems bright. Virtual Reality technology is still in its childhood which means that VR and education are going to cause quite a stir in the future.

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