Practical VR Solutions for the Classroom – Wired or Bluetooth Controller?

What might seem like an innocuous decision, which hand-held controller should be used to give students control within a VR world, might actually turn out to be the deciding factor between a successful classroom experience, or not.

Let’s take a closer look at the functionalities of a VR controller in education and contemplate upon which is a better practical solution for the classroom – Wired or Bluetooth. But first, let’s see if there really is a need for a controller.

Why Do We Need A Controller?

When it comes to VR in education, it is important to have basic interactions: point and select, movements – left, right, forward, back, and drag and drop, and so on. The absolute need for these gestures and elements of control will allow VR usage to be more participatory. This encourages students to become active learners rather than passive recipients of information, which should help them to reflect on the experience, use their analytical skills to formulate a concept or an idea based on that experience, and accordingly make decisions and take constructive action.

Let’s Get Wired!

A wireless (Bluetooth) controller is stylish, and feels like the contemporary choice. You are not tethered to anything, you have freedom of movement, and it is the option de rigueur. Even so, let’s take a moment to consider the implications, and whether or not it fulfills our needs in the classroom.

Here are a few counterpoints to keep in mind:

  • Bluetooth always works perfectly in the factory or lab, during the design and testing phase. But what about the classroom? In a setting of possibly 25-40 students, all of them having a number of devices in their possession, using Bluetooth could be potentially problematic due to the presence of a number of competing signals. The bonding or pairing between devices isn’t always perfect, and a solution that is not plug & play can eat up class time during setup.
  • A wired solution saves the battery life of the headset. A Bluetooth-controlled HMD will require energy, which will slowly drain the battery of the headset. Moreover, batteries are required for Bluetooth controllers, which are bound to drain, and therefore, need replacement. We all know that will happen in the middle of a lesson.
  • The possibility of losing a wired controller is reduced when it is attached to the headset and can also be physically wrapped around that headset for storage. The desire to walk off with a wired controller is considerably less, making inventory management that much easier.

However, even at the cost of stating a truism, it is a fact that technological change occurs at an exponential rate. As the recent developments of mid-2018 demonstrate, the pairing and bonding issue for wireless VR controllers may already be a thing of the past. Apart from being the most elegant, lightweight and mobile option, a standalone system such as Oculus Go or Pico Goblin offers a more polished and consummate experience. A word of caution though, it is good practice to label the headset and its controller just to make things easier in a classroom full of enthusiastic young learners.

Of course, it is up to the school to determine which option is more suitable for them.

Technologists may or may not be aware of the practical challenges that educators face in the classroom. As educators, therefore, it is good to consider all possible pros and cons in order to make a more informed choice for your school.

About the Author

Dave Dolan

Dave Dolan

Dave has been teaching for close to 30 years and holds a Masters in TESOL. After establishing an English school in Japan in 1993, his interests grew towards using technology to best serve the needs of students. Dave brings that same approach to virtual reality. Bridging the gap between technology and the classroom will always be Dave's focus. Hailing from Canada and based in Japan, he has taken on a directorship with Veative, ensuring that educational needs remain a focus within the company.

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