There’s a lot of excitement around what virtual reality can bring to education. Even though, at the moment, it remains out of reach for most schools for cost reasons, teachers are apparently very enthusiastic about the possibilities. Earlier this year, Lenovo polled 500 teachers across primary and secondary education in the UK. Whilst 97% believed that it made for more engaged students, only 23% of teachers have been able to use VR in a classroom situation. Goldman Sachs estimates that around $700m will be invested in AR/VR applications in education by 2025. Whether that estimate is right or wrong and even if teachers are sold on its advantages, it’s not clear whether schools or universities will be prepared to dedicate their budgets to an emerging technology which until extensively used can’t be shown to improve results. VR and AR advocates will have the challenge of convincing those holding the education budget purse strings to add headset hardware to their inventory whilst ensuring they have enough computing power to run them.
On a positive note, there are applications in other industries where it is making a difference, healthcare, travel, engineering for example. Indeed, for higher education, such as medical schools, students able to experience and simulate a real life surgical procedure in a practice situation can only be beneficial. In these scenarios, expenditure is more likely to be forthcoming.
Certainly, VR technology has the potential to make some subjects more engaging and to enable all students to experience and visualise topics in geography and science in a much better way. These two subjects have been cited by teachers as those that would most benefit from VR the most: sciences (27%) and geography (23%). VR can of course be a great alternative to organising field trips and enable all students to participate. In certain cases, this can be a great leveller in helping to overcome any financial and physical barriers that some students may face. In the Lenovo survey, teachers cited climbing to the top of Everest (67%), seeing moments in history like the D-Day beaches (66%) or exploring wildlife and the natural world such as watching a volcano erupt (65%) as great use cases.
VR may also have another positive effect. According to the Lenovo research, almost three quarters of teachers felt that VR could have a positive effect on the design and creativity skills of students and over half (57%) claimed that VR could potentially help build aspirations for students regarding the types of jobs they want to do. As many as 84% believed that VR would be “crucial in creating the workforce of tomorrow”.
Whether VR/AR has the same impact in the classroom as interactive displays have had remains to be seen but once it is proven to be a way to improve the teaching and learning experience then perhaps its potential will be realised.
Not only can it transform some areas of learning for students but also add a new dimension to lesson planning for teachers. The opportunity for students to discover places that would be difficult to experience with a traditional field trip and to look back at historical events with a sense of realism create an exciting and immersive learning
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Sources & Acknowledgements: Lenovo, Goldman Sachs