A few years ago, virtual reality was basically sci-fi Hollywood trope, or well, as some conspiracy theorists will emphatically state, strictly for use by the US Military. A few years later, virtual reality was consigned to only video games. Today, it is a whole new ballgame. Today, we are using virtual reality in schools. Growing up, I would not have imagined it, or to be more truthful, I would only have imagined it. But now, it is a reality.
All over the world, several schools are implementing virtual reality tools across several spheres and courses, irrespective of whether the arts or the sciences.
This post is about the various ways in which several schools around the world, including colleges and higher institutions, are implementing virtual reality tools with maximal success.
Virtual Reality Trips
From the Arlington Science Focus School in Virginia to the small community college in your backyard, virtual reality is being used to go on trips to museums and historic sites, using virtual tours such as is found in the Smithsonian. These tours come complete with the audio tour guide for the complete immersive experience. Titans of Space, a virtual reality platform run by DRashVR LLC company, offers a tour of the solar system for students subscribed to the platform at a way less cost than having to visit a planetarium or (of course) a rocket fare to Mars.
Using an android phone with the Google Cardboard, one can visit any of the trips available on Google Expeditions – including trips to view the Jurassic Age, or even understanding what goes on in a Large Hadron Particle Collider.
Understanding the details of a place from a textbook or even from a video can never be the same as having experienced it for yourself. This is the basis behind school field trips. However, these trips can sometimes be expensive to run, so who would not jump at an opportunity to have more of the same without having to pay all of the cost?
These tools help students to experience locations as part of their learning experience without having to go there. A welcome development especially in this era of cost-saving.
Special education students get to learn too
Disabled students wanting to learn about architecture or archaeology who had hitherto being unable to due to their limitations can now partake completely in the learning process without having to leave where they are. This also is beneficial for autistic students and other students with special needs who have to be handled in specific ways. Their special situation no longer needs to limit them to what they can learn.
The medical profession has for years relied on the ready availability of cadavers for training surgeons in the past, but with new discoveries and the presence of previously unconsidered conditions such as health state, genetic variations etc., the normal cadaver is no longer enough to truly train a medical surgeon as the situations experienced may not be the same. With virtual reality tools like Surgical Theater that is in use in UCLA, students can learn about neurosurgery in a way they would normally not have been able to. In Case Western Reserve, VR is used to teach basic anatomy even, while Mendel Grammar School in the Czech Republic is using the Oculus Rift to teach students about the anatomy of the eye. Other tools in use include the brain simulating software being used in Chu Angers University Hospital.
Students no longer need to be in the location to partake in the class, as we have known for a number of years now. With what is being tried in the University of British Columbia in Canada, it goes a step further to make the class truly interactive and immersive for a student attending via Virtual reality.
The major benefit of having virtual reality as a tool for the classrooms is that it helps students to participate and perform certain activities in the classroom, in a virtual environment, where the risks and potential damage is minimal, before trying it out in the real life, physical classroom. Not only does this serve to reduce risk, it also enables the students to try certain scenarios that ordinarily would have seemed impossible to perform in the real world, and also, the opportunity to repeat the action in the virtual reality and then again in the real world, helps to cement the learning.
Virtual reality is here to stay and it is up to educators to see it as an opportunity to expand the horizons and even syllabi of their students, to bring education to life and learning to reality.
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