Augmented and virtual reality have picked up a forward momentum in the education industry. Teachers and administrators noticed the need for a more inclusive, interactive way of learning when virtual learning became a necessity. Through the years, both augmented and virtual reality have been making minor gains in mainstream recognition as developers worked tirelessly behind the scenes to make the massive growth extended reality had in more recent years possible. Augmented reality learning is a bit easier to implement than virtual reality learning, but both are valuable tools that every educator should consider due to their inherent benefits.
What are Virtual and Augmented Reality, and What's Best For Your Student?
Virtual (VR) and augmented (AR) reality are the most commonly thought of technologies when people talk about extended reality technology. They refer to opposite ends of the XR spectrum and have different uses across the XR space. To encompass it all, extended reality combines the digital and physical world in an interactive way.
While both are part of extended reality, AR and VR differ in one fundamental way. Augmented reality occurs on the physical space. Its digital aspect is an overlay of images, text, and audio onto the space in front of the user. Think of it as a supplementation of what you already see, and if augmented reality supplements, virtual reality eliminates the physical world (though different levels of immersion still leave room for the physical space).
They also differ because of the types of technology needed to access them. While augmented reality can be used with something as simple as a smartphone or tablet, virtual reality needs an HMD in order to access. Both technologies need the same things in order to work; display, processors, and sensors. However, augmented reality is fully equipped with all the necessary components, and virtual reality generally needs a separate display in order to work.
As a result, one is more accessible than the other to a group of students. While most students have a phone in their pocket, not many are walking around with a virtual reality display. Because of this, augmented reality is more likely to be seen in a school environment than virtual. Both have their time and place, and are valuable contributors to a student's education.
7 Benefits of Virtual and Augmented Reality
When considering implementing anything into an educational sphere, its important to consider all of the benefits and detractors to a specific tool. In regard to extended reality, there are plenty of both, but we'll focus on the benefits here.
1. Virtual and augmented reality encourage collaboration and teamwork. With a wealth of activities in the virtual and physical space to work with, students can help create dynamic environments, build upon each other's assignments, and study together with a goal in mind.
2. VR and AR gives students multi-sensory experiences that help with many areas of educational growth. These include fine detail work, auditory recognition, and information retention.
3. Student engagement is increased with the use of XR technology. VR and AR are innately fascinating tools, and with the gamification aspect of traditional textbook work the learning process becomes increasingly interesting to a wide array of students. In today's technologically inclined world, students everywhere are drawn to the possibilities that XR gives them.
4. Immersion is an important aspect of memory and knowledge retention. The more engaged a student is with a scenario, the more they will remember. Virtual and augmented reality create an environment that enables them to focus more intently on subject matter and remember it for longer periods of time.
5. This also helps the students with a better understanding of critical concepts. People learn by doing, which is where science experiments and practical application come into play. Virtual and augmented reality are another step in the immersive learning experience that enables students to internalize critical concepts for a deeper understanding of subject matter.
6. Oftentimes, students are left out for one reason or another. This could include anything from race, to language, to disabilities. However, VR and AR technology enable students to learn, no matter their skill level in any area. Extended reality is universally accessible, and gives every student an equitable opportunity to learn.
7. VR and AR allow students to express their individuality and grow emotional intelligence. Again, students learn by experiences. Given the suitability of the technology to allow students a multitude of simulation experiences, it helps them see the world from a different perspective.
3 Cons to VR and AR Technology
While there are plenty of benefits to implementing virtual and augmented reality, educators should strongly consider the negative aspects of the technology as well. While there are more, there are really three major cons to having a virtual learning curriculum in education.
1. If a user is not accustomed to the motion aspects of an immersive world, motion sickness and headaches can be a common hassle to work around.
2. Addiction can come with any bit of technology, but with more immersive ones, it can be easy to hyper fixate on it, spending more and more time in a virtual world than the real one.
3. XR technology can be isolating, because it takes you to a place that isn't quite real, removing the user from the existing physical environment.
These are the most prominent detractors of virtual reality in education, but like with anything else, the more aware you are of the issue, the easier it is to mitigate. Keeping a time limit on the availability of these tools can help with most of the negative symptoms. Making students aware of certain scenarios will also help to take the responsibility on themselves, to check how they're feeling in any given situation, physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Why Should Educators Consider Virtual and Augmented Reality?
Of course, there is nothing stating that virtual and augmented reality are necessary technologies for the edification for future generations. We've gotten along just fine using the traditional methods of past generations, and truthfully, they'll continue to be a positive tool for teachers for years to come. There's nothing to say that students won't get along just fine in the future. However, the most important thing to consider is the "education gap", a concept that details the benefits of technology in general to students across the world.
The education gap refers to the accessibility of knowledge to varying degrees, making it easier for some people to access knowledge, while others are left in the dark. Knowledge isn't for one social class, or one geographical location. It should be accessible to everybody everywhere. It coincides with the fundamental human right and responsibility to make choices and take responsibility for themselves. Virtual and augmented reality, while moderately more expensive than traditional teaching tools, create an accessibility to knowledge that crosses boundaries and fulfills an innate desire to understand, and to choose for oneself.
Virtual reality and augmented reality ensure the benefits of education can be accessed by everybody, not just a few select elites. Educators would be wise to consider virtual and augmented reality a standard in their tool belt, not just for their innate benefits, but also for the way that those benefits will helps students become functioning, emotionally wise members of society.