Virtual Reality – A boon for the education sector

By: Yuvraj Krishan Sharma, Co-founder & Director, KOMPANIONS

Let us look at what virtual reality actually is. In simple terms, Virtual reality is an artificial environment that is developed with some form of software and is presented to the user in such a manner that the user accepts it as a real environment. Remember the movie – ‘Matrix’. The simplest form of virtual reality is a 3D image or the 3D movies that you watch, which can be explored interactively at a personal computer, usually by manipulating keys or the mouse so that the content of the image moves in some direction or zooms in or out of focus. More advanced forms of virtual reality involves approaches such as wrap-around display screens, actual rooms augmented with wearable computers, and haptics devices that let you feel the display images. Virtual Reality is no more a mere concept now, it is very much a part of our day to day life.

Virtual Reality, as a technology has numerous applications in various industries, such as healthcare, entertainment, automobile, advertising, education, tourism, space, skilled trades such as welding, military and law enforcements etc. Among all these industries, the education industry is one which can benefit hugely by deploying virtual reality in teaching and learning processes.

VR in Education

Online and digital education sector is growing in leaps and bounds in a predominately education conservative country. Interactive and participative modules of learning like concepts of smart boards, e-learning and other technology platforms have already made its presence felt in the academic sector. Smart boards are a passé now. As everything evolves, technology also had its turn and continuous research has revealed an even better form of education and learning – Virtual reality based learning solutions.

If we come to talk about the role which innovative technology facilitated learning pedagogy plays in bringing out the best from the students, we are guaranteed to witness towering implications. As we all know, “Seeing is believing. Helps the child to relate better!” – Audio visual animation, virtual reality and interactive technology based systems of imparting education not only help students grasp and retain better but also makes learning an enjoyable experience as compared to traditional teaching modules. A child needs to inculcate creativity, have the dexterity of problem solving and analytical thinking to compete in the increasingly digital global marketplace.

No wonder that true learning happens through exploration and discovery, leading to the ability to ‘think’ and not ‘rote; Children have impressionable minds and a strong grasping ability, hence teaching modules like virtual reality go a long way in making learning an enriching, exciting and enjoyable experience. Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Gamification are some learning modules that are making its foray, rather strongly, nowadays.

Advantages of VR

Let us now look at some of the benefits that VR provides to the education sector:

· It promotes collaborative learning and fosters social integration among students: It is apt for students who lack confidence, have different needs and learning styles. Moreover, VR provides ample opportunities for group work and peer teaching

· What is not possible in reality is possible in VR – Feel it to know it. The ability to present practical knowledge to the classroom without actually leaving it, makes educational experience invaluable. It’s possible for a student to learn about safety issues in a building by creating a virtual building through VR and then walking through it, watching, listening and experiencing as you walk.

· VR and gamification takes motivation and engagement to the next level. Games and simulations motivates students to self-learn and concentrate better, than traditional modes of teaching which generally promote one way lectures. The visual and kinesthetic experiences in virtual worlds contribute to children’s ability to learn. It impacts students desire to learn.

· It goes a long way in inspiring creative thinking. Furthermore, VR tools and technologies can be played around with to suit specific requirements and learning goals and needs. Students get to create things and learn from the art of creating.

· It all sums up to this, “The world of reality has its limits; the world of imagination is boundless,” said Jean-Jacques Rousseau, speaking in the 18th century. VR is very much here to get the virtual world into the real world.

· VR is mostly currently used in K 12 and higher education, however, its potential in primary education cannot be undermined, especially in a country like India where the education system is quite conservative in its overall outlook.

What VR makes possible

Did you know that the Taj Mahal or a pre-historic civilization ruin can be recreated in a 3D environment and that it is possible to walk through the place as a true surround environment, without even stepping out of the classroom? Or walk along the ocean floor surrounded by oceanic creatures, while sitting within the confines of the classroom. Or imagine yourself walking on the surface of Mars. These are some of the many possibilities that technology provides to the world of education. All this is possible through the use of an app and a smartphone!

It wouldn’t be wrong to conclude that these forms of learning will help in creating a cognitively healthy and intellectually smarter planet. In essence, it implies that the education ecosystem that encourages creative and critical exploration amongst every child enabling accelerated understanding of concepts is what we direly need in our primary education ecosystem.

Virtual Reality (VR) technologies bring in a host of new opportunities into teaching and learning. Virtual Reality Learning Environment, a VR-based interactive environment incorporating instructional design for educational purposes, nowadays draws the interest of interdisciplinary scholars. The millennial generation today are comfortable with learning online, doing research on the web or relying on instructional videos and tutorials on YouTube or opting for distance learning, over video conferencing. Virtual Reality is next!

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