Studies show that experiences outside of the classroom leave a huge impact on students, and virtual reality offers the perfect opportunity to leave these impressions on students without physically leaving the classroom. As VR headsets have become more accessible, more educators are realizing that they could have a huge influence on education.
Out of the Ordinary Possibilities
Teachers are striving to reach students on a deeper level, and many students respond to unaccustomed experiences, like field trips or non-traditional learning methods. Think back to your early education. Odds are some of your most valuable learning experiences happened on a trip to an alternate learning space like the planetarium or a museum. Virtual reality can imitate these real-word situations, allowing students to experience and explore new environments that were never before possible due to budget or time restraints. Plus, students from rural and high-poverty schools benefit even more than other students, according to a study by the University of Arkansas. Apps such as Nearpod make visiting the Taj Mahal or the Washington Monument possible, all from your classroom.
VR can also be used to bring students together from across the globe, or even across town for students studying remotely. It can allow students who don’t have the capability of being in the classroom, such as when they’re sick, to never miss a beat.
Obstacles Plaguing Advancement of Tech in Classrooms
While virtual reality offers unlimited learning opportunities, there are some hurdles that face the technology. One of the biggest is that the devices can be out of reach for the general population. While the headsets are often low cost and high impact, they can still be difficult to get for every student in a classroom. While an average textbook costs around $60 and usually focuses on a singular subject, a VR headset can be purchased for around $100, and the content that can be accessed is limitless. While in theory this product is somewhat of a no-brainer when it comes to tools that a classroom needs, it is often seen as just an added expense and not an essential tool. As more educational VR content is produced, headsets will transition from being viewed as superfluous, to being viewed as necessary.
Another issue that plagues educators’ confidence in VR is the potential health side effects. While long-term effects of VR are still unknown, some users have experienced side effects after wearing the technology, such as headaches, queasiness or blurred vision. While these side effects are likely only be temporary, they can still be scary and cause consumers to be reluctant to replace traditional learning with VR immersion. As the technology becomes more commonplace, there will be more evidence of the impact that VR can have on health, making it easier to see if VR is the right product for a classroom.
On the contrary, VR headsets combined with products like Kortex have been scientifically proven to help manage stress and sleep. Kortex stimulates the brain to produce serotonin while lowering cortisol (the stress hormone). Relaxing, meditative and engaging VR content enhances the experience of using Kortex™. This is huge benefit to students who are suffering from sleep deprivation, stress and anxiety.
Looking Forward with Virtual Reality
By utilizing virtual reality while learning, students can block out all outside stimuli (other students, cell phones, taking notes) and become fully immersed in a subject. When a student is tasked with making decisions throughout a game or simulation in order to accomplish an objective, it sticks with them longer than simply watching a video, hearing a lecture or reading a textbook. VR allows students to give 100% of their attention to the subject. Complete subject immersion allows students to engage and retain information at a high level.
What we’re seeing now is only the start of what virtual reality can and will do. It has tremendous potential to change the landscape of education, and also other industries such as gaming, entertainment, research, workplace training, workplace training and media.
Dave Hodgson is North America sales and distribution director for Zeiss Multimedia Devices, a group within the consumer products division of Zeiss, makers of camera lens, binoculars and scopes. Multimedia devices include the Zeiss VR One headset and future wearable devices with specialized lenses.