Virtual Reality in the Classroom: The Coming Education Revolution

After years on the scene, we’re finally beginning to see Virtual Reality hit the mainstream. It really is a whole new world—a virtual one, that is.
While Virtual Reality (VR) may be exciting for personal use, it’s also promising for a variety of industries, including education. VR and its sister in technology, Augmented Reality (AR) provide unprecedented opportunities for students both in and out of the classroom. Let’s take a look at how VR and AR are spurring an education revolution.

VR Allows Students to Get Up Close and Personal

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) in the classroom give students the ability to experience what would otherwise be far from reach. The opportunities span across grade levels and schools, from elementary to post-graduate levels of education. In the following paragraphs, learn how VR and AR are allowing students to get up close and personal with a new world of subjects, in constantly evolving ways, and in places all around us.

This first example relates to the use of Augmented Reality (AR) in the education setting. Medical schools are using AR technology to create educational experiences that simulate laboratories. Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland is leading the charge with the adoption of the HoloLens, guiding simulated dissections of human cadavers. In fact, the school is developing an application that may eliminate the need for a cadaver lab altogether.

Hospital systems guide post-graduate education by introducing residents to 3D models that allow them to practice complex procedures and better anticipate complications. Using VR and AR tools, health care systems can create more comprehensive learning experiences for students, ultimately improving health care delivery.

Create Virtual Field Trips

Virtual reality makes many new things possible—take field trips, for example. School districts are often constrained by their budgets and resources. It would be cost-prohibitive for schools across the country to send students on a field trip to a famous institution like the Smithsonian. With virtual reality however, amazing experiences granted by expansive field trips are now a possibility for every student. The Smithsonian American Art Museum has a dedicated app that allows anyone with a virtual reality headset and smart device to take in the wonders of the Renwick Gallery, which are enhanced with video lectures from artists and the museum curator. The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, and the Air and Space Museum offer similar virtual reality experiences.

Improve Collaboration and Participation

While the technology around us has improved exponentially, even in the past few years, technology use in schools has often not kept up. This led non-profit organization XQ to launch a grant competition, “Super Schools,” that challenged educational institutions to rethink the way high schoolers learn. One of the winners, Washington Leadership Academy, is using their $10 million grant to revolutionize the learning process with virtual reality. Examples of use include walking through the streets of Paris in French class, and sitting in on the Constitutional Convention.

The Academy is also using some of the winning grant funds to create a virtual reality chemistry lab that will be accessible to districts with fewer funds, so children can conduct scientifically accurate experiments regardless of the constraints on their individual districts. Their efforts illustrate that virtual reality not only caters to charters and private schools, but anyone who has a desire to learn. Virtual reality in the classroom means that students from all over the country will have opportunities to study art, history, and science in ways we never thought possible.

These virtual reality experiences also improve student engagement. Rather than sitting in a room reading a book or listening to a lecture, students will actually be able to experience education. Educators will also be able to follow in the footsteps of the Smithsonian, and conduct video lectures and collaborate with districts with fewer resources.

With VR and AR, students will be more willing to participate, and are more likely to remember what they’ve learned. This is the ultimate goal of education – and that is why virtual reality is poised to revolutionize the future of learning.

photo credit: Merlijn Hoek Octavian testing oculus rift // TEDxAmsterdamED Amsterdam via photopin (license)

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