How will virtual reality impact the education sector?

Jonny Mackley
July 16, 2019

As technology continues to advance, so too does the way we
can learn. While the internet has enabled us to conduct research on any subject
at ease, our learning spaces and facilities are also improving. Virtual reality
is gradually becoming part of many industries and when it comes to schools and
colleges, it’s no longer a case of simply sitting at a desk with your books.
Here, we look at how VR is impacting the education sector.

Guided tours

Virtual reality allows you to get to know your learning space before you’ve even set foot on the property. An Ofsted report for Newcastle College praised the establishment’s world-class facilities, and students are encouraged to take a tour of what’s on offer online.

By offering virtual reality tours, you are opening up your institution to prospective students away from the area as well as those on your doorstep. It can make your centre appear unique and special, helping you stand out from the crowd and is a lot more engaging than simply using photos to promote your space and courses.

Virtual classrooms

Not so long ago, the bulk of the learning experience came
from teachers standing at the front of a classroom and students working through
a text book. Of course, this still happens, but there are a host of other
opportunities available too.

With Open University (OU) courses allowing students to study
outside of a classroom, lesson plans can take you anywhere in the world. For
example, recently the OU took students to the Great Barrier Reef via virtual
reality. The Google Expeditions technology allowed students to go on a virtual
field trip to a location which would be near impossible for them to actually

Professor of Learning Technologies and Social Computing,
Shailey Minocha, developed the field trips for the OU and said: “Our previous
research has shown that the high degree of realism now achievable in virtual
field trips complements the physical field trip experience and in imparting
fieldwork skills. Virtual field trips also make it possible to experience
activities and locations that may be impossible, or extremely difficult, to
arrange in real life.”

Reports found that students benefit from class trips, with
72% gaining a better understanding of their subject and two thirds would do
better in their exams if they went on excursions. With virtual reality this
complex situation will be a lot easier to organise, meaning that virtual trips
could become a frequent part of teaching.

Hands-on experience

Hands-on training is key to a student’s learning. Doctors
and mechanics, for example, benefit from carrying out ‘on-the-job training’ in
work experience and in-class modules. However, due to its complexity, virtual
reality can help when it comes to time, cost and controlling the health and
safety aspect of this experience. If apprentices or students can take part in
surgeries or engine changes in a virtual environment, their learning period
will be significantly accelerated. This allows them to learn a potentially
dangerous task in a safe environment.

Not only this, but hands-on learning helps to increase
learner engagement, helping to activate more parts of the brain, which in turn
leads to information being stored for a longer period of time.

If education uses virtual reality wisely, we will see
students hugely reap the rewards. Technological advances are providing the
tools to change the way we learn and teach, and virtual reality can be a big
player in this.  

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