Published on August 26th, 2019 | by Emergent Enterprise0
Is Virtual Reality the Future of Online Learning?
If you can’t bring the learners to the location, bring the location to the learners. Stephen Gossett shares six different VR solutions at builtin.com that are providing powerful learning alternatives to students around the globe. And, if research ultimately shows that VR experiences are more effective than traditional learning, expect to see many more headsets at schools and enterprises.
Education is driving the future of VR more than any other industry outside of gaming. Here’s why virtual reality gets such high marks for tutoring, STEM development, field trips and distance education.
Photo: Doghead Simulations
It’s the Fall 2018 semester and a group of anthropology students are deep in concentration, intently studying ancient Egyptian characters scrawled along a tomb atop the Giza Plateau. But there’s a twist: some participants are in a Cambridge, Mass. lecture hall; others are in an East China classroom; and no one is anywhere near northern Africa.
With the help of rumii, social virtual reality (VR) software designed by Seattle-based Doghead Simulations, the students — half studying at Harvard University, half at Zhejiang University — were working together as avatars in a VR-equipped classroom. Both camps were strapped into their Oculus Go VR headsets, as Doghead co-founder Mat Chacon remembers the scene, and rumii was “the virtual bridge.”
Everyone’s goggles on, their professors launched the lab and loaded up 3D models of the Sphinx and one of the tombs, which the teams could then grab and move around in the virtual learning space. Other features included live HD video streaming and screen sharing.
“The Chinese and American students just immediately engaged and started talking to each other,” Chacon recalls. “They naturally broke off into groups and started using our drawing widget to circle the hieroglyphs that they would study while they’re in Egypt.”
While the students also traveled to the Giza Plateau soon after their virtual classroom experience, that preliminary gathering sparked meaningful collaboration well beforehand, despite the 7,000-plus miles between them.
“It was just this natural conversational immersive interaction that made their trip to Egypt a lot more valuable because, when they were there, they could hit the ground running,” Chacon says.
A VR EDUCATION
VIRTUAL TOOLS FOR REAL-WORLD LEARNING
The Giza experience wasn’t all that different from Doghead cofounder Chance Glasco’s own VR aha moment. Glasco co-founded the video gaming powerhouse Infinity Ward, but he eventually burned out on the gaming industry and left the company right around the time he first tried the Oculus Rift prototype DK1.
“Wow, [the technology] is finally here, rather than crashing like it did in the ’90s,” he recalls feeling at the time.
Retreating to Brazil soon thereafter, Glasco discovered that VR offered a far more reliable and connective experience with colleagues in the States than video conferencing did.
As for Chacon, he had an inkling that virtual reality might be a formidable classroom tool. He based his hunch on American educator Edgar Dale’s well-known but controversially non-scientific theory dubbed the Cone of Experience, which posits that people remember far more about something through direct experience of it as opposed to just reading, seeing or hearing about it. And early research indicates that Chacon’s instincts about VR were correct. A Penn State University study found that students who used immersive virtual reality to accomplish a task did so more than twice as fast as students who used traditional computer programs.