The 21st Century has seen some major advancements in the development of Virtual Reality. Today, the technologies in the realm of Virtual Reality, owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneering inventors of the past six decades who paved the way for the low cost, yet high-quality VR devices that are easily accessible. In the recent past, this segment of the tech industry was only restricted to the gaming industry as well as the military and defense sector. Its introduction to the world of education has just begun, and very rapidly it is making its presence felt around the globe. According to Technavio’s latest market research report, the global Virtual market in the education sector will grow at a CAGR of over 59% until 2022. The increasing need for experiential learning is a major factor driving the market’s growth.
The virtual reality content is simulated in multidimensional, computer-generated immersive environment. It can change the way a learner interacts with the subject matter through the use of VR headsets and controllers. This encourages the students to become active learners rather than passive recipients of information. With the varied immersive experiences that it offers, virtual reality has a huge potential to transform both the teaching and the learning processes. It is the ultimate medium for delivering what is known as “experiential learning”. This theory of learning is based on the idea that we learn and remember concepts through experiencing it, rather than being told what it entails. Imagine a scenario where students experience an immersive module on photosynthesis. With the help of a controller, they can go into the leaf and get a sense of how plants meet the requirements for the process of photosynthesis. Such ‘look-see-do’ modes of learning encourage students to explore, identify, and experiment with the content at their own pace. VR-based immersive and experiential learning has the potential to create a deeper level of student engagement in a distraction-free environment. Such an environment creates opportunities for learning through assimilation, focus, and attention on the concepts. This further allows for better retention of the concepts in the minds of the students.
Learning goes beyond the four walls of a classroom, as students may now be afforded the opportunity to visit places they could only imagine, or have experiences beyond the scope of their dreams. Virtual Reality provides new forms and alternate methods of presenting the subject matter in the most comprehensive way. Such visualization adds a new dimension to learning as it frees students from the confines of the physical world. The emergence of virtual reality in education has pedagogically shifted the focus from memorizing to higher order thinking. It will help learners to reflect on the experience, use analytical skills to form a concept or an idea about the experience, make decisions and take constructive action.
Virtual reality not only empowers student learning, it also enhances teaching capabilities of the teacher. Virtual Reality is no substitute, it empowers teachers with better and more engaging teaching aides. It makes the job of a teacher easier during an instance when it becomes a new task to explain a concept that should rather be experienced. Within the VR simulations, teachers can track student understanding of the topics being taught, by the use of analytics and reporting of student data from within the VR environment. As VR encourages active participation, it becomes easy for the teachers to identify possible gaps in understanding of the students and attend to those issues timely. Virtual reality allows the teacher to effortlessly monitor, access and analyze each student’s progress, and provide instant guidance and feedback. On the other hand, with integrated assessment scores, educators can bridge the learning gap and make learning fun and be exciting for the students.
With VR as a supplementary tool, the focus is primarily on the learning outcome of the students. Through integrated questioning, reasoning and answering, students can comprehend complex concepts easily by interacting with the subjects and get to know how and how much they have learned. Such Immersive learning encourages inquiry where students learn by doing. A tool like the VR only when combined with good, vetted content, has the potential of bringing students to the centre of the learning process. The pace at which virtual reality is changing the face of education makes educational institutions like schools a great host for this innovation.