Virtual reality technology has come a long way in a short time. Both the hardware and software are reaching a point where it can be used to give students relevant and engaging virtual experiences right in the classroom. Science, engineering, mathematics, history, any lesson using virtual reality technology will immediately become more impactful. However, there are 3 specific areas in which VR stands out.
Explore the 3 biggest benefits of VR for Education using the list below.
New Tool for Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
Managing emotions and understanding how to show empathy to others, setting and achieving goals, establishing and maintaining positive relationships, and making responsible decisions is how Casel.org defines SEL. Casel is a collaborative group that originally defined SEL over two decades ago and works with leading experts to support districts and schools to drive forward research, inform policy and offer guidance to improve SEL.
These skills aren’t easy to fully comprehend in a conventional classroom, especially when using textbooks or video to explain. Virtual reality has the unique benefit of transporting students to distant lands, back in time, or allowing individuals to “walk a mile in someone else's shoes” right from their desk. Experiences like these are profound and deeply impactful as well as being nearly impossible to replicate in a classroom using a book. Virtual reality gives teachers the tools to offer their students experiences that would be impossible to achieve without the technology.
Virtual Reality Improving Retention
“Memorize for the test, forget soon after,” This is an unfortunate reality in many classrooms across the nation. Information and lessons that should be exciting are muted by the limitations of today's learning materials. Virtual reality helps teachers frame their lessons in a way that resonates with students. With relevant VR applications becoming more readily available, teachers have ways to create excitement about their learning material. Students that are excited about, and engaged in, a lesson are much more likely to retain what they're being taught. Furthermore, VR technology allows teachers to show students real-world examples of how they can apply what they are learning to their everyday life.
The University of Maryland conducted a study to determine the effectiveness of virtual reality training when compared to traditional desktop CBT (computer-based training). The results were staggering. It uncovered that when using virtual reality training, participants showed a median recall accuracy percentage of 90.48%, a massive improvement from desktop CBT which resulted in 79.57%.
Increasing Engagement and Keeping Students Attention
Kids are extremely comfortable in front of a screen. They’re constantly on their phones, streaming movies and shows, and feel at home interacting with digital technology. Getting a student to actively participate when the material they’re learning lives in a textbook is a challenge to say the least. This is where virtual reality has the power to shine. When a student puts on VR goggles, they are thrust into a virtual world, completely enveloped in the educational material being discussed.
Students are able to see for themselves complex concepts and experience the world in a way that they can understand. A child can’t take a trip into an active volcano or follow rain water through a storm drain to gain an understanding of the water cycle and how it impacts water conservation. With virtual reality students will gain unprecedented insight and understanding about the world around them.
A study conducted by the Department of Psychology, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK in June of 2018 gave the same learning materials in textbook, video and virtual reality format. When students were asked about their overall impression of virtual reality, it scored the highest positive scores and the lowest negative scores. These students found VR more ‘engaging’ and one participant even stated “[virtual reality] made learning more exciting.”
According to the research “Learning in virtual reality: Effects on performance, emotion and engagement, “participants in the VR group showed better recall than participants in the textbook group”.
Within a single class period, students can be transported to the hot spots that impact Earth’s tectonic plates such as the deepest mines of Africa where diamonds are formed, the thermal lakes of Iceland, active volcanoes of Hawaii, Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone Park and more! Whether it’s to start a lesson, support the material, or use it to conclude a discussion, VR elevates and transforms the learning environment greatly increasing engagement of any subject and participation in classroom.
BONUS: Virtual Reality Technology is for Everyone
Virtual reality experience is visceral, engaging and exciting. When anyone puts on a VR headset there is a physical response to the VR world that leaves everyone in wonder and amazement. For teachers, half the battle is getting students to connect to the material being taught. Using relevant VR experiences, designed specifically for education, teachers can trust their students aren’t just playing with exciting technology, they are learning. VR is both engaging and inclusive. No one will feel as though they don’t belong.
Right now there are organizations developing the cutting edge educational virtual reality technology. Combining curriculum standards, excitement, and revolutionary technology, these systems are becoming a helpful resource for teachers. Inclusivity, SEL, increasing engagement and improving retention are just some of the benefits that come along with incorporating VR in the classroom. As the technology continues to advance and the right companies continue to support the development of educational VR technology, there’s no limit to what can be possible in the K-12 space.