Textbooks brought to life
The beauty of VR/AR in an educational setting is that the technology allows what were once abstract textbook concepts to be fully explained. The Body VR, for example, is what many would call The Magic School Bus brought to life. The program provides a free VR experience that takes students inside the human body. Within this STEM lesson students travel into the bloodstream to discover how blood cells work to spread oxygen. The program also allows them to enter a living cell to learn how organelles work together to fight deadly viruses.
zSpace applications include a wide range of learning objectives for different careers and industries. If science isn’t your thing, zSpace has an app that provides a realistic experience with mechanics as students explore and repair engines. Not only is the experience educational, the VR platform avoids physical risk and reduces consumption of supplies and other materials.
The impact of gamification
Many instructors would be hard pressed to find a student who has little to no interest in video games. Imagine being able to combine a student’s hobby with educational objectives? Priceless.
Gamification, a key component in many educational VR apps, has been shown to help students struggling with a particular subject. Game-based techniques can heighten engagement, provide immediate feedback, encourage new ways of thinking, and accelerate the learning process.
What about cost?
When talking through the benefits of immersive technology in the classroom, one cannot leave out the factor of costs. The costs usually begin with a smartphone and a head-mounted display or tablet that can handle the videos and graphics that support the VR/AR experience. While this is no minor hurdle, smartphones and tablets are nearly ubiquitous. The average American child has a smartphone by the age of 10, according to one study.
Most visualization tools work best with headsets such as Facebook’s Oculus Rift and HTC’s VIVE Pro and Focus. These headsets, plus optional gloves and other accessories, can be costly, creating another challenge for parents or school systems.
Fortunately, Google and other companies provide free or low-cost immersive content and even offer budget-friendly VR options such as Google Expeditions; the Oculus Go all-in-one headset starts at $200.
While there might be some financial barriers to adoption, prices will continue to fall as the technology advances and I’m sure we’ll see the VR/AR educational value continue to rise.
A look ahead
Technavio predicts that the educational AR market in the U.S. alone will reach nearly $3 billion by 2021 with a compounded annual growth rate of more than 82 percent globally. The company expects educational use of VR to grow by 55 percent on the same annualized basis.
The reasons are not hard to discern. Immersive technology is already showing its promise in student engagement and by other benchmarks of educational effectiveness. Whether you’re a student or an educator, immersive technology increasingly is likely to be a part of your future homework assignments or your lesson plans.
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