What should teachers expect from Virtual Reality in the classroom? How can teachers use VR most effectively to ignite young minds? As Jaime Donally has rightfully pointed out in her book, Learning Transported, many educators are won over by the wow factor of immersive technologies, but they fail to make a direct connection between technological tools such as VR and AR and content areas and student objectives. The immersive nature of virtual reality adds depth and visual appeal to educational content, which in turn allows young learners to engage with and explore, understand, and assimilate concepts that might have been difficult to grasp within a traditional classroom environment. The use of VR can be critical in enabling students towards achieving greater depth in understanding conceptually rich subjects. In today’s classrooms and those of the future, VR can serve as the ideal technological conduit for disseminating ideas, inciting the curiosity of young learners, and facilitating autonomous and lifelong learning. From exploring the world to discovering the intricate details of the human heart, what VR brings to the classroom is engaging, immersive, and personalized content, provides learners with much-needed flexibility while grasping difficult concepts, and most importantly, helps teachers utilize their time in the classroom in a more efficient and productive manner. Yet, this cannot be thought of as enough. Isolating students in an immersive environment is not sufficiently educational. Educators the world over must continue to strive for more for their students, and be keenly aware that although the VR experience is a powerful tool, there must be a connection between content and curriculum, assessment of that connection, while also maintaining a link between student and teacher. That is when learning can be fully realized!
Content is key
For VR to be genuinely useful in the classroom, developing high quality content that is aligned with the school curriculum and creates opportunities for autonomous learning will be a decisive factor. Ensuring that students stay engaged, stimulated and motivated to learn is one of the hardest challenges that teachers face daily in the classroom. In this regard, VR technology can be a practical solution by offering students the opportunity to learn experientially, connect with difficult topics at their own pace, challenge themselves to discover more beyond the walls of the classroom, and track their own progress. However, the focus must be on what they are learning as opposed to how they are learning it. VR can be of use particularly in this aspect because it allows teachers to be part of the immersive learning environment and track students’ progress. For instance, the Veative VR solution comes with an easy-to-use content management system accessible via the web, or an app loaded on the Teacher Tablet for use in remote areas with limited connectivity. The content management system enables teachers to easily find structured content mapped to their curriculum, while Veative’s proprietary reporting system for teachers and students allows them to view valuable data and analytics. Therefore, with VR in the classroom, teachers will be able to devote their attention to bridging individual gaps in learning and help the classroom grow as a whole.
While VR is exciting and has the necessary wow factor to engage young learners who are products of the digital age, the sustained use of VR in the classroom will be driven by its ability to help students deepen their understanding of difficult topics and facilitate a more purposeful form of learning. Considering that the crux of the argument for VR in education lies in the notion of learning by doing, students can benefit immensely from a deeper level of connection with a concept, the results of which may then be quantified through test scores. Furthermore, research suggests that visualization of learning content and learning in a VR environment strengthens the connection between the learner and a concept, thereby suggesting improved retention rates, which can only be proven through additional study.
Different strokes for different learners
Where VR scores over other traditional approaches towards learning is in its adaptability. For example, while VR in the classroom can enable students to learn at their own levels of pace and proficiency, it can also assist in the rehabilitation of children with ADHD, helping to attend to the behavioral and cognitive skills of such young learners. The adoption and integration of VR in education signals a much-needed shift away from learning that is often abstract and disconnected from practice, thus empowering young learners around the world with access to an immersive learning experience that is engaging, interactive, and personalized. Furthermore, at Veative, learning modules designed in alignment with global curricula can establish a relevant link between each module and what is being taught in class, making VR not merely a technological tool but an effective aid in the educational process.
The classroom as the hub of creativity
Teachers are indefatigable in their endeavour to help students learn to the best of their abilities. However, keeping students engaged and motivated can be an uphill task for even the best teachers. That’s where VR factors in, lending a much-needed helping hand by breathing new life into old topics of study and inspiring learners to consider education not as a chore but as a stimulating intellectual adventure. The core strength of immersive technologies such as VR and AR lies in the visualization and simulation of learning content, foregrounding a richly experiential mode of acquiring, absorbing and retaining knowledge. VR allows students to explore different kinds of realities, which is otherwise impossible in a traditional classroom. Whether it is by bringing ancient history to life, virtually transporting students to outer space, or taking them on a fantastic voyage deep inside the human body, immersive technologies are leading the charge in the transformation of learning and teaching experiences globally.
Reports and analytics
VR alone is not a panacea. True efficacy can only be found when a technology like the VR is properly matched with the curriculum, is localized to any region, and intelligently connects students with concepts, and teachers with students. With intelligent analytics, a teacher can track a student’s progress through learning assessment and generate predictive insights, thus helping both student and teacher identify and address gaps in learning. The objective is to better comprehend how each student learns and what kind of learners they are, with a view to assisting educators in performing their tasks in the most efficient way possible and creating a seamless and riveting educational experience in the classroom. Although students will still be required to learn reading and writing, mathematics, critical thinking, etc., there will be an equal emphasis on developing self-discipline, cognitive skills, and technical proficiencies, the forte of immersive technologies like VR. And although interactive VR modules promote self-directed, self-paced learning opportunities, a connection with the teacher must remain, to ensure educational goals are being met.
What is the essence of a VR-based approach to education? Thinking about the future rather than resting on past laurels. Research shows that the immersion of students in a virtual environment empowers them to learn better because learning becomes an active, participatory, and engaging experience. As more and more schools wake up to the benefits of incorporating immersive technologies in the classroom, the idea of education itself will receive a new lease on life with both students and teachers working together toward transforming the process of learning.