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Increasing use of virtual reality in education

Digital transformation has been impacting upon the education sector over the past decade, through changing technologies accompanying changes in research habits, scholarly communications patterns, campus roles and more. In the last year of so, technological advance has seen a wider take-up of digital technology by schools and universities.

In the first of a three-part Digital Journal special looking at the digital transformation of education, we look at the application of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality systems to boost learning and to engage students.

Nepalese students sing in the classroom of a school in Bhaktapur  on the outskirts of Kathmandu  on ...

Nepalese students sing in the classroom of a school in Bhaktapur, on the outskirts of Kathmandu, on May 31, 2015
Prakash Mathema, AFP

The use of virtual reality in the classroom represents a change to how students engage with material, representing a shift in thinking from the relatively docile student sitting at a desk and being the passive recipient of information communication by a teacher. Virtual reality allows the student to interact more directly with the subject matter (learning about World War II? How about immersing yourself into the Blitz?) The use of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality are examples of transformative technology which can both enhance teacher instruction and create an immersive lesson for the student.

READ MORE: Digital technology provides personalized learning

For schools worried about the cost of virtual reality headsets, devices like Google Cardboard aim to make virtual reality headsets cheap and accessible.

Child with a virtual reality headset  London Film and Comic Con  2017.

Child with a virtual reality headset, London Film and Comic Con, 2017.

As reviewed by Forbes, there are several virtual reality platforms available for the education sector. For example, there are apps like Unimersiv, which uses specially filmed sciences to can transport the student to ancient Greece. A second example is with the system Cospaces, which enables students to share their virtual creations with each other and even with other students around the world.

Other examples of education virtual reality:

Anatomy 4D: This allows the study the human body with clear images that come to life. The program is ideal for biology students.
Star Chart: An immersive app which brings the universe a little closer. Students can learn about constellations and they can also interact with facts about planets and the history of space discovery.
InMind: Shows neurons and brain tissue as realistic images, allowing the student to travel into the brain and learn about anatomy.

These applications are probably just the start of a wide program of rolling-out virtual reality into the modern classroom. This is the view of Wilkes University online adjunct professor Kathy Schrock, who tells Eschool News that virtual reality has the potential to increase both visual literacy and technology literacy. She also states: “Bringing the global experience into the classroom with immersive images and videos can enhance lessons and is informative and engaging for students. In addition, there are apps that allow students to create their own 360° images and videos with the smartphone and many online places to host them.”

READ MORE: Artificial intelligence used to mark more exam papers

In short, virtual reality is emerging as one of the hottest educational technology trends, providing students with the opportunity to emerge themselves into a subject like never before, and all from their desk chairs.

If this article was of interest, please read the second in the series which looks at how schools are using digital technology for individual student learning.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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