When we think of Virtual Reality (VR) it is common to think of goggles or headsets. This is the equivalent of thinking telescopes when we want to talk about astronomy.
VR experiences allow us to live everyday situations in real time, that are illusions. They do not need to have a physical support and they will not come true, because they only exist on the computer. The computer captures your movements to incorporate them into the virtual world so it “reacts,” trying to make us forget what is happening in the reality that surrounds us. As technology advances, the difference that our senses still manage to detect between this world and those of illusions become more and more elusive.
This expanding ability is what makes VR a strong educational and training contributor to STEAM fields, such as medicine, cultural heritage, and experimentation about the possibilities and limits of the psychology of perception. Put on a VR headset to get immersed in the simulation of a virtual body, possibly yours, allowing you to make a diagnosis, perform surgery on yourself or understand your illness.
Advantages and benefits
- Virtuality as an intrinsic motivator
The possibilities of free exploration and interactivity create new possibilities and relationships with knowledge.
- A new teaching sandbox
As a teacher, you can implement classes applying VR tools. Eventually more and more aspects of the current learning experience will be possible on a virtual world.
- Captivate students’ attention
When someone has the feeling that they are understanding something and can put it into practice, it motivates them to continue learning about the subject, then their attention continues fully with the teaching. By controlling a learning environment to a much larger degree, VR helps students focusing for longer periods of time.
- Encourage creativity on both sides, the student and the teacher
For teachers VR represents a new opportunity to deliver useful and creative content for the lessons, different to what they have applied before. In this sense, it provides a new “playground” of experimentation that stimulates the creativity in teachers, just as it does for students. In short, VR adds new dimensions to the relationship —and responsibility— between teacher, student and content.
Disadvantages and challenges
- The world of technology is rich in benefits for students and teachers… As long as they know how to manage it. Just using VR is not pedagogically enough to be able to apply VR-taught and learnt concepts in real life situations.
- Students and teachers run the risk of preferring virtual worlds to real-world conditions. There is a small likelihood that it generates dependencies in some at-risk populations. Teachers have a critical role to guide their students to make good use of this innovative tool.
- Affordability continues to be a limitation for a considerable number of students around the world. Beyond the cost of equipment, the financial case (particularly ROI) for mainstream use is not strong enough.
- Despite the advances, we are still ways to go to be able to train in a virtual world in a way that is sufficient. There will always be real life factors missing, and difficult to reproduce.