We surveyed people on their opinions about how virtual reality (VR) technologies can be used in education, as part of our Emerging Ideas discussion series on this topic. Here is what people thought from our initial sample of 25 responders:
Overall, the results show an optimism for how VR might support, extend, and enable new forms of learning, and how these technologies may become more ubiquitous in the next ten years. However, there were also critics, one anonymous responder left the following comment:
- VR is a pointless technologists dream. It is a tool and has no pedagogical significance. Higher resolution models are not superior to lower resolution models for learning. Look at the story, a story or narrative structure has been the principle form of passing knowledge between people and preserving knowledge in an oral way and later in a written way since before we evolved as humans. A story is a reduction of the world to a simpler low resolution and easily understood set of principles and processes which can be widely or even universally applied. Over stimulation and high resolution technology is inappropritae to the brain based process of learning. You see, hear, touch, smell, balance on, etc. the world....then you process that information in your brain. Endlessly tinkering with various ways of loading in stimuli doesn't replace a story, it doesn't replace or even necessarily enhance a student looking at a diagram in a printed textbook vs looking at some newfangled VR scenario. Did Video change education? Did recorded audio? Not in any meaningful way. Even now creating and editing video content for a purpose, beyond a mere lecture recording, is very very difficult and the vast vast vast majority of academics are not engaged in it. Are they all dumb and bad educators who just can't see the value of spending hundreds of hours of their lives editing videos for students when they could just give them a much lower investment and higher ROI document to read? I don't think so. It is preposterous for silly technologists with zero teaching ability or experience to declare a revolution....just like the last 4 or 5 such declared revolutions...then complicated video platform will find exceedingly few proponents who wish to spend time running around with 3D video cameras creating VR content, then editing in X,Y,Z position information to create objects in VR space. All for what? Does anyone actually learn anything better by having very high resolution and very hard to build and very hard to maintain VR compared to readings, stories, crosstalk amongst peers, and experiences? It will be a lot more than a decade before we see any 'wide' adoption of this technology. Think of video. When did TV's become popular, in the 1960s or 50's? When did we get lecture recordings, 2013? This is a lot of hype and a LOT of WASTED RESOURCES better used elsewhere. The opportunity cost is huge. How about we buy a few academic hours to do something we know works, like provide some meaningful and timely feedback to their students?
Others were more positive:
VR has even more possibilities thanks to be able to immerse students into environments that are not usually possible and the factor of collaboration in a remote manner where people can interact with each other in a virtual room without having to be sitting physically in the same room
I recently personally had a VR learning experience visiting a refugee camp and it was highly valuable in giving me a real world perspective without the need to actually travel to the camp. I do think that the content development will be very expensive and hence a limiting factor in making VR a reality more broadly.
As with all innovationVR will be held back by the slow crawl of education bureacracy. However it has huge value in immersing children in diverse contexts.
I think the challenge with VR for subjects and concepts other than the obvious i.e. visiting a nuclear power plant (something inherently visual) is that the design component is considerable. It is difficult to get well designed OLEs let alone VR. One has to weigh up how long and how much it costs to design the educational VR and then whether the experiences shown in it will still be current and applicable in 2 years because with the large investment of time and money you would want it to have some longevity.
Others left comments with specific recommendations for how to think about and approach VR and Education
To make educational VR work, the VR environment and activities have to be well-designed (can justify there is a need to use VR) otherwise it'd just be a gimmick.
Need to be specific about what is meant by VR. Many folks assume VR means a 3D immersive experience such as with HMDs and 3D glasses; which is what I assumed was meant in this survey and how I answered the questions. However, "2.5D" (simulation of a 3D environment but shown on a 2D computer screen) are commonly available today and we have more research demonstrating significant learning with 2.5D systems than immersive 3D systems. There is a need for more research into what types of subjects might benefit from 2D and 2.5D learning systems and which might have learning advantages for fully immersive 3D VR.
I know this survey deals with VR, but I would suggest that the taxonomy of referring to immersive learning technologies and the convergence of Augmented and/or Mixed Reality (AR + XR) is expected to change how we refer to, and conceptualise future forms and applications of immersive Ed. tech.
We would love to have more data, so if you haven't already filled out the survey, we encourage you to do so here - http://crlionline.net/node/381
What are your takeaways?
What are the next steps that should be taken?
Thanks to all that participated!