Virtual reality has been growing in popularity within recent years amongst teachers, students, and parents alike, with a Statista study predicting that by 2025, VR in education will be a $700 million industry. Similarly, Goldman Sachs reported that VR technology could reach 15 million students by 2025.
This rising popularity is due to the various benefits of utilizing VR technology within education and the classroom; one of which is that VR technology is an experience like no other. VR technology provides students with a truly immersive experience in which they can take fun lessons such as exploring the inner workings of the human body, seeing the effects of climate change on the melting polar ice caps first-hand, and attending Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe Theatre, set in 1600's London.
Fun lessons for students result in increased interest and engagement in the classroom, benefiting teachers' ability to empower and inspire as well as expand and stretch students' imaginations- the sky is the limit!
Boosting engagement with VR limits distractions due to this immersive experience and this boosted engagement in curriculum is vital in today's world of limited attention spans. In fact, the benefits of VR work to remedy the issue posed in a Samsung study that claimed 86% of K-12 teachers believe that it is a challenge to keep students engaged in curriculum.
This study further revealed that 93% of teachers believe that their students would be excited to use VR in the classroom and 83% believe VR may improve learning outcomes- from better understanding of concepts (77%) to greater collaboration (71%) and learning motivation (84%).
Teachers are on board, students are on board, so what are some other comprehensive benefits of VR technology that will convince a greater number of teachers across the country to implement VR in their classrooms? Let's explore them.
Firstly, VR is an active experience rather than a passive one. This means that students are fully immersed in a 3D simulated environment, in which they can interact with virtual objects and characters. These virtual assets are pre-programmed by developers and brought to life by 3D designers. These simulated environments make students' five senses come alive, surrounding students with images, sounds, and other colorful stimuli that heighten a believable experience. They can travel out of this world on a rocket ship to the moon or sail the seas to learn about the North Star and wind currents. Digital assets and engaging atmospheres foster better engagement from students, which can be easily monitored by teachers spectating a VR lesson. Teachers can do more than spectate and can lead the class on expeditions, pointing to interesting objects in the VR space, encouraging questions and curiosities among students to run free.
This VR experience is immersive in that students are able to control a virtual body or avatar in order to interact naturally with virtual environments. They are free to move uninhibited in this digitally designed world, free from physical restrictions in the outside world. They can fly, jump, run, aim, and zoom in and out of desired spaces, making for an experience free from universal laws of physics. Imagine students making great leaps to the top of historical architecture or learning how to pilot an aircraft. This unbounded freedom allows for uninhibited motion to learn and grow on the student's terms, further fostering curiosity and creativity.
Fostering creativity and curiosity brings us to our second reason for why teachers should use VR in the classroom. With the freedom of movement to explore, students are unrestrained from embarking on quests into rainforests in order to study the animal kingdom, they can bird watch from the comfort of a classroom, and problem-solve the issue of how to stay hydrated and well-fed while on these extended quests. No real danger in the physical world is placed upon students and they are able to simply imagine and experience these dangers and quests in the virtual world. Teachers are able to relax in the comfort of their classrooms instead of embarking on potentially dangerous field trips that may never be brought to fruition- although an unforgettable trip, I don't think taking a 3rd grade class to the Amazon would be granted funding!
So, the beauty of these lessons lies in that teachers can expose their students to environments that are truly unique, such as the melting polar ice caps in Antarctica, lions and hyenas hunting in savannah terrains, and digital safaris with giraffes in Tanzania. These lessons have the benefit of exposing students to a widespread and worldly education by experiencing different cultures and parts of the world, that they may not otherwise get to experience in their lifetimes.
Also, the beauty of these lessons lies in the fact that these lessons are fully customizable by teachers, making the possibilities for learning endless. Teachers are given creative power to optimize their lesson plans with unique experiences that are beyond the limits of what they thought was possible.
Exposure to fun lessons within a 3D landscape also allows students to interact and socialize together , fight missions in teams, race and play together, as well as tackle educational challenges together. This game-based learning boosts engagement and is mentally stimulating to K-12 students. Imagine a lesson plan where students are immersed in a human body and all the organs are scattered in the wrong places throughout this body! The heart is in the head, the kidney is where the heart is supposed to be, and one lung is in the stomach! Students have to work together to readjust the pieces and put the body back in working order. These lessons foster teamwork, communication, and collaboration, which are all important skills for students to utilize within and outside the classroom.
These fun lessons and the ability to move freely within their digital environments, have a positive impact on promoting memory and lesson retention, which is our third reason for why teachers should implement VR technology into their curriculum. Who could forget finding their kidney in their thigh? Who could forget racing alongside their classmate in order to save a Californian forest from a wildfire?
These fun lessons fulfill the successful mission of connecting the feelings of students with education as engagement is made fun and students are more likely to remember exciting lessons, rather than boring ones. The ability to entertain a class with VR technology makes it so that students are more likely to remember and be excited about the fact that they saved the rainforest or put a body back in biological working order. In fact, research shows that emotions affect learners at different stages of the learning process- lesson plans can have a positive impact on students' attention, motivation, learning strategies, and ability to self-regulate learning. Fun lessons set students up with the tools they need to stay engaged, optimize their learning, and show up ready to learn- which is half the battle!
More so, these complex issues, concepts, subjects, and theories such as climate change, biology, and more are broken down and made easy for students to understand and remember, thereby increasing their knowledge area on such topics. This customized VR content that is interactive and engaging, allows for increased experimentation, practice, and extended learning by doing. This expands students' efficiency to gain knowledge through kinesthetic learning and benefits teachers' abilities to empower and inspire.
Our last reason for why teachers should use VR in the classroom is that exposing students to technology early on can spark students' interest in certain captivating career paths. Consistent use of VR technology can inspire students to go into fields such as technology, game programming and design, graphic design, as well as software. These career fields require a tech-savviness that can be learned by exposing students to increased technology early on in their lives, from grades K-12 and on. Research shows that K-12 teachers should embrace VR technology in the classroom as positive effects include: helping children to build up their academic learning, social skills, and ability to navigate digital devices. This ability to effectively utilize technology to learn and teach serves both students and teachers for years to come in our rapidly changing, technologically savvy world.
More so, students' experiences with VR in the classroom can set them up to forge their own pathways to entering a career that they truly love alongside their learning and academic journey. A career that they love leads to greater life satisfaction as well as the ability to make great future choices.
Due to increased engagement during science lessons as well, students may be inspired to pursue careers in STEM. Teachers, imagine looking back 20 years and learning from a previous student that they are now a chemist because of a fun VR lesson they had with you when they were younger! They excitedly recall mixing chemicals over and over in order to get the formula correct and prevent your virtual classroom from exploding! These engaging lessons not only break down complex topics in science, technology, and more, making them easier to understand for students, but, as we can see, can inspire certain life-changing and fulfilling career paths. This fulfillment from teachers, in turn, can bring great satisfaction to teachers whose main goals are to inspire and teach their students successfully.