Understanding how a student learns is perhaps one of the most important tasks a teacher will perform. Some students might learn by audio or visual means, and others by using pictures, speech, writing and spatial understanding. As students work their way though school, they may be memorizing information in each grade level, but are they really learning? Let’s find out.
Rote Learning, a memorization technique based on repetition is one that has long been a part of our educational system. Having knowledge immediately accessible can have tremendous social and professional value. According to research conducted on rote learning by Irish researchers, learners can actually recall more information overall. Further, rote learning benefits the hippocampal foundation, a key structure in the brain for episodic and spatial memory in humans.
However the problem isn’t memorization, per se. It’s the over-reliance in education that can occur when not enough thought is placed on recognizing when and where rote learning benefits a student, and when it doesn’t . The problem can be exacerbated when the entirety of trigonometry or alegbra is reduced to recitation through formulas, the origins and purposes which students don’t understand, nor connect with. On the other hand when a student truly learns, he is able to reflect upon the experience, use analytical skills to form a concept or an idea about the experience, make decisions and take constructive actions.
It has become imperative to make use of supplementary tools that will help schools in the implementation of qualitative and quantitative systems that have the ability to unleash creativity, stimulate interaction and bring children to the center of learning. One such technology that has brought a paradigm shift in education and has the potential to enhance the learning process is Virtual Reality.
According to research conducted by the University of Maryland1 on whether people learn better through virtual, immersive environments, or via traditional means, the researchers found that people remember information better if it is presented to them in a virtual environment.
VR can enhance the entire learning experience and transform a traditional, somewhat passive method of education into an immersive and engaging one. VR-based immersive and experiential learning can possibly result in higher retention of the subject matter, and a deeper level of engagement in a distraction free environment. Unlike a video or a teacher-centered lesson, the control is in the hands of each student, allowing them to control the pace. This in turn increases motivation within students as they are the agents of learning. Imagine a child going inside a leaf in a virtual world to learn what photosynthesis is all about, which is not possible in the real world. In VR, virtual science labs can be created to let learners do experiments and activities virtually.
There are a number of ways in which VR can help fill gaps in the learning process. It can provide one more instance of working with, or interacting with, a concept. It can foster higher order thinking and help to develop critical thinking by way of experiential learning, as it encourages students to explore, identify, and experiment with the content at their own pace. It’s unlikely that VR would replace traditional instruction, or teachers; but, it offers opportunities which may assist and enhance the learning process.
In a survey on virtual reality in education by Veative Labs, we can see 92% teachers thinks that VR will have a positive impact on student learning.
Addressing the gaps in traditional learning methods, such as rote learning, Dave Dolan makes a compelling case for VR-based learning in bringing about a transformative educational experience. In a constantly evolving learning environment, the writer underscores the importance of fostering a stimulating and participatory mode of engagement through VR, which could work wonders in assisting and deepening the learning process.