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How virtual reality is changing education

VR is changing the way people learn in new and interesting ways. 

Ever since the McFly family sat around the dinner table wearing VR headsets in Back to the Future II, we’ve all been patiently waiting for the technology to hit the mainstream.

Finally, it seems we’re on the cusp of this actually happening.

360 degree video production companies are springing up all over the world in anticipation of high demand, while already-established products like Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR and Google Cardboard are making virtual reality more easily accessible to consumers.

VR has the potential to change multiple industries, including entertainment, gaming, design, real estate, and many more.

Education is another area that has already begun to harness the power of virtual reality.

Only a few children are experiencing so far, but VR is likely to be something that the children born this decade could consider standard once they reach high school, and not just for entertainment.

Take a look at some of the examples and benefits of VR in education.

Going further afield 

Want to take a field trip? In the US, a group of school children were treated to the ultimate excursion: a bus ride to Mars.

Using an interesting take on Virtual Reality, a bus was transformed, replacing the view out the window with the landscape of the red planet.

The driver of the bus could still see the streets around him, but as the vehicle sped up, so too did the virtual scenery that the students were taking in.

Mars Bus was able to cover an area of 400 kilometres, allowing the students to travel for hours without seeing the same things twice.

The overall project was designed to get kids excited about ‘STEM’ subjects, meaning Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The Mars Bus is an exciting demonstration of what’s already possible. Virtual Reality may soon be used within classrooms to transport children to destinations that are equally inaccessible.

Students could find themselves being transported to the plains of the Kalahari, the deepest depths of the Mariana Trench and peak Everest, without having to pack a single travel bag.

You can learn more about how they did it here.

Getting technical 

Speaking of STEM subjects, VR is a way to open a world of interactive technology to students, making learning exciting and fun.

In Ireland, primary students recently undertook a trip to nearby historic ruins.

They then created a virtual model of what they had seen and were able to have another complete look around, this time using Oculus Rift headsets.

For those of us born in different generations, doing something as technical as this at such a young age seems impressive.

However, with an increasing dependence on technical skills in the workplace, it is considered more important than ever that children start learning to operate various kinds technology from their early years.

New ways of learning 

Some people learn better by reading texts, others by following instructions.

For visual learners, VR is a more than welcome addition to the arsenal of education.

Rather than looking out the window, students could potentially see exactly what their teacher is talking about, be it the history of Australia or how volcanoes are formed.

Immersing students in what they’re learning has the potential to truly engage and increase their overall comprehension, no matter what type of learning method they prefer.

According to the UK’s Virtual Reality Society, using VR in education provides benefits including:

  • Active rather than passive experience
  • An immersive experience without distractions
  • Immediate engagement
  • A hands-on approach that aids with retention
  • Helping students to understand complex subjects and theories

Academics have backed this up, claiming that VR technology has been shown to improve user performance in tasks such as spatial understanding, memorisation and training by allowing users to experience applications from a first person perspective and to interact using natural techniques.

There have also been findings that VR is especially effective where an interactive environment is needed.

Beyond the schoolyard 

One example partnership is between Next Galaxy and Miami Children’s Hospital, which is working on incorporating assessments into medical VR models and creating situations where participants are required to make decisions about certain techniques.

Elsewhere, medical students have been able to watch live broadcasts of simulated surgeries, getting real-world experiences that they wouldn’t normally get until late in their training.

Virtual and Augmented Reality can bring incredible training opportunities even for the military.

Boot camps are becoming virtual, with recreated battleground scenes allowing for more realistic training and better preparing prospective soldiers to face the situations they may come up against.

Allocating recruits with Oculus Rift headsets and training them in warehouses has the potential to cost far less than traditional training methods.

In the medical field, partnerships are being formed between tech companies and hospitals, with the goals of improving training and learning experiences.

Independent learning

Anyone can be a student with Virtual Reality.

VR education company Unimersiv has a great example, with a program called House of Languages.

This immerses users in virtual airports, cafes and museum, sharing useful words in German, Spanish or other languages.

With the benefits of learning via Virtual Reality being heralded by many organisations, it is exciting to think of what our children will be able to learn and master in the not too distant future.

Access to fast broadband over the nbn™ network has the potential to help kids all across Australia, like the McIntosh family, who were able to take a virtual tour of the Great Barrier Reef, despite living five hours north of Adelaide.

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