Education institutions have always been reticent about absorbing new technologies. Due to budget limitations, many schools tend to be left out in the cold when these technologies go mainstream. While this remains true to a certain extent in many cases, one new technological wave that is quickly seeping into anything from corporate employee training and universities to amateur-made video tutorials on YouTube is Virtual Reality (VR).
Virtual Reality (VR) is nothing new in the world of technology. For decades, companies had made occasional attempts to commercialize and introduce it to the public. This changed around the beginning of the second decade of the 21st century. In 2012, the venture capital poured into VR’s R&D almost reached the $1.5 billion mark. By the end of the decade, capital investment in VR technology is expected to rise to about $16 billion, with another $200 billion for hardware, software, and more.
While most of the content produced for VR has been meant for video games, times are changing and quite a few companies are taking initiative in branching out into other fields. One of these is education.
Education Fields Implementing VR
The hard sciences were the primary subjects for which material was developed in the first stages. This was mainly due to the necessity to interact with dimensional objects rather than more abstract ones. Things have moved on since then as other areas for which content is being developed include architecture, history, and environmental sciences, all of which tackle representations of space to a greater or lesser extent. Moving forward, arts and humanities are also receiving attention as students get to interact with content designed to present topics either in their historical setting or as they evolve in a contemporary sense.
Medical fields of research are benefitting greatly from the VR experience, providing one of the first gateways for the technology into higher education. Its functions in this field range from simulating surgeries to observing the human body from different perspectives while interacting with it.
Back to architecture, this is another tertiary education field that is quickly seeing the absorption of VR as an effective learning tool. VR allows students in this field to get a better perspective of their own designs and to see in real-time what they’d look like once completed. They also have the opportunity to test their designs for faults more easily and in a risk-free environment.
Overcoming the Limiting Financial Factor
Considering the cost of the more high-end VR HMD models such as the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and more notoriously Microsoft’s Hololens, this is undoubtedly a limiting factor for many schools. However, more economical models are in circulation, most of which are designed as docks of sorts to fasten smartphones in. Some of the more well-known names include Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR. Then, educators who decide to embrace a more DIY approach with their students are actually designing their own using 3D printers.
VR’s Added Dimensions to Education
With many trends in education moving in the direction of experiential learning, VR most certainly has a part to play thanks to its simulating capabilities. When both students and learners are asked whether they believe VR will help improve learning experience, the tendency is for positive responses to be in the higher percentages.
Through visual, auditory, and practical application of learning, students are showing an uptick in memory retention rate, which implies a more solid grasp on the subjects being handled in class. As VR approaches even more the actual “feel” of the topic at hand, students can engage in a more personal and direct way with it. By simulating environments in a virtual way, VR redefines the idea of education through immersion.
Several experts seem to be in agreement that one of VR’s most notable strong points is that it has the potential to bring people from different parts of the world together despite social, geographic, and economic disparities. Therefore, the social education aspect receives a boost thanks to a fostering of an understanding of different cultures and countries. By taking virtual trips, students can access different regions of the world and experience their cultures, all the while interacting with students on the other end, also equipped with VR apparatus.
In a virtual sense, VR has shortened the geographical distance between different groups of students and teachers. Interacting in virtual spaces and the sharing of knowledge amongst individuals, regardless of their physical location has become all the more possible thanks to this technology. And while it’s generally true to say that learning by doing cements a student’s understanding of the subject a lot better than by simply imbibing information, perhaps, learning through collaborative endeavor is even more effective. And after all, if such cooperative learning is done in a fun atmosphere, this fosters a communal spirit, one that can truly lead us more closely towards a global ideal.
AUM and VR
VR is one of the technologies AUM is most keen on researching and implementing in its own educational practices. While this is more evident for our Game Development degree, we are constantly seeking out methods and content that will facilitate application of VR across the board. The reasoning behind this is that AUM wants to deliver education that has implications in the real world in terms of practical application, one that is forward facing and that stays abreast of industry trends.