At the nexus of learning and innovation


Virtual reality (VR) is being heralded as a game-changing technology in many industries, with an estimated market impact of ~20billion USD by 2020. But how might it impact education?

From exploring the solar system to practising surgical procedures, virtual reality presents an opportunity for engaging with spaces and experiences that would otherwise be impossible or impractical.

This potential, however, is far from being fully realised. How do we get it there? And does this supposed potential really live up to all the hype? And are there risks? For example, some research suggests that immersive VR is not suitable for children under 13 years.

We want to hear your ideas, concerns, and perspectives. And we need input from all involved parties, ranging from educators, technologists and researchers, to students and policy-makers. Together we hope to develop an understanding of what works, what doesn’t work and how we can best use the technology we have available to us.

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Then, let's have a discussion. Here are a few questions to get things going:

  • What is the biggest challenge in making VR work in education right now? What should people be working on?
  • What subject domains or use-cases would benefit from VR the most?
  • How can we best ensure that technologist and educationalists work together in advancing uses of VR in education? What other disciplines do we need to get involved?

Additionally, here are a couple of showcased projects that are trying to implement learning experiences in VR

  • Stellar Evolution: A project by Cyntia Franco and Matthew Burgess that lets learners explore the formation and evolution of stars.
  • A virtual reality bushwalk: A project by Claire Seldon that lets learners fluidly explore natural bushlands from the classroom.


Submitted byProf Michael J… (not verified) on Tue, 08/28/2018, 06:49

Advocates for extensive use of VR in education need to remember this key challenge: Unlike standing next to a fire and automatically getting warmer (or burned), being in an immersive 3D VR system does not mean a student will automatically learn. Thus we need a LOT more theoretically informed, rigorous research into educational VR learning environments to be able to make the argument for more extensive use of such systems in regular K-12 classes.

Submitted byCourtney Hilton on Tue, 08/28/2018, 07:28

In reply to by Prof Michael J… (not verified)

Right, exactly!

History likes to repeat itself. Specifically, a hype-cycle around a new technology and its powers to transform learning, and then this falling flat because there were only technologist driving the innovation with educational research being either totally absent or disconnected from development and implementation. 

Would be nice if we could break the cycle this time :)

Submitted by Phil Gough (not verified) on Wed, 09/12/2018, 05:21

In reply to by Courtney Hilton

I, for one, would consider myself an advocate for targeted use of use of VR (and other technologies) in education and in general. I feel that my colleagues who are excited about these opportunities would agree that it is appropriate to target specific activities that can be significantly augmented by any technology. I haven't met anyone in this space who thinks that VR magically induces knowledge in the participant. People also have to be able to invest the time/effort/money to make it work well, which is an equal challenge, and probably where educators are struggling. Everyone is already overworked.

The Gartner hype cycle doesn't even identify VR as an "emerging" technology any more, and it was climbing the slope of enlightenment last year, because it's just here. We are teaching biology in VR by making students as creators of VR scenes, not just consumers of content in VR. Our students will apply their disciplinary knowledge to a creative task that is realistic to implement now, compared to building something in VR 3 or 5 years ago. We can encourage critical reflection on the use of multiple technologies, where students compare VR to a 2D representation and a 3D physical model. But these exercises are underpinned by a knowledge of the course content, and students are introduced to the possibilities of the new tool, rather than developing mastery of VR creation tools. Students don't need to master these tools, because they are becoming much more usable.

There are many opportunities with new technologies. We do have to learn how to use them, but we need to actually take these opportunities.

Submitted byPaul Sijpkes (not verified) on Thu, 08/30/2018, 05:30

Most institutions still do not deliver robust, evidence based on-line learning initiatives and we are still understanding how best to utilise web technology in education. So with on-line learning still being very much in its infancy, I think VR has an even longer way to go. There are some 'use cases' where VR could be very effective such as in medicine and the Stellar Evolution example. The virtual bushwalk could also be good for people that are unable to get to the real bush. There are other issues with VR, the limitations of wearing the goggles, the fact that it's wired and the idea that it is a disconnected and non-tactile experience. If VR can overcome these problems it will be an amazing tool (such as the holo-deck in Star Trek) but the clunkiness of the whole thing is the main thing limiting its use for broader educational applications IMHO.

Submitted byClaire Seldon (not verified) on Fri, 08/31/2018, 09:31

I have a much more positive outlook than all the other commentators. I am already seeing VR being used in schools to gamify and explore environments such as space and the microscopic. Is it similar to the Star Trek Holodeck? No, not yet, and may not be in my life time. But my mobile phone in the 1990s looked like a tricorder, yet wasn't one. And now mobile phones are in some ways more powerful than a Star Trek tricorder in a way that we might not have been able to imagine in the 1990s.
To back up my assertions I offer a few examples of how VR has been used in schools. A wonderful primary school teacher from Merrylands East had his students create the habitats of endangered species using Minecraft and then turned those creations into VR experiences. His students went to a local shopping center and used the VR experiences to explain to the public why it was so important to protect habitats and ecosystems to preserve endangered animals. VR has allowed teachers to bring dinosaurs to life in the playground as inspiration for students to write. It is being used to explore the reaches of the solar system and the depths of cells and the intricacies of molecules.

How can we hope to use it in education and have it expand it's reach and potential if we don't use it as best we can and allow early adopters to experiment and push boundaries? If we wait for it to be perfect and as we dreamed of in the 1980's and when we read William Gibson how can we ever make it a real part of our educational tool kit?

I don't believe VR is a magic bullet to solve all the problems of modern education, but then I don't think any one thing will ever do that. I believe that all tools and techniques in moderation will allow us to chip away at inequity and try to bring wonder and first hand experiences to as many students as possible.

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