When laptops and tablets first began to gain widespread use and popularity among the younger generation, educators started to look at the benefits this technology could provide for teaching and learning. Like the technology that came before it, virtual and augmented reality continues to move full steam ahead and provide new ways for users to interact and gain hands-on experience, making it ever more apparent to evaluate the effect this new technology could have on human learning.
What is virtual reality and what benefits does it provide?
Virtual reality (VR) is an emerging technology that provides a 3D immersive environment for the user by isolating them from the sensory signals of the real world. VR grew mostly out of the needs of the video gaming industry but soon found another home in the military and aviation. Over the last several years, VR has moved on to the mainstream of professional development, where instructors, coaches, managers, and therapists alike have found learning benefits in the immersive experiences provided by virtual reality.
According to Citi analyst Kota Ezawa, the VR market could go on to become a $15.9 billion industry by 2019. Since Facebook bought Oculus Rift for $3 billion in 2014, the VR market got a huge boost. Now other companies such as PlayStation are launching their virtual reality devices for the general public. There has also been a surge in companies such as zSpace and Alchemy VR that is solely dedicated to providing schools with packaged educational content, training for teachers, and technological tools to support VR-based instruction in the classroom. In other areas of education, many classes have used VR tools to collaboratively build architecture models, recreate historical sites, and provide remote training over various topics.
As VR goes increasingly mainstream, there are questions about its current effectiveness in teaching and learning and its potential use moving forward. Here are some benefits to consider when assessing the efficacy of virtual reality:
- It works for learning.
Several studies have revealed the effectiveness of virtual reality learning, from reducing the fear of public speaking by almost 20 percent to improving decision-making in professional football quarterbacks by 30 percent.
- It fosters group collaborations.
VR technology is not just an individual experience but a group experience that allows more than one person to experience the same reality virtually and simultaneously. This allows for enriched shared learning and group collaboration on projects that would otherwise not occur.
- The costs are decreasing.
VR hardware, especially headsets, is typically a one-time purchase and has steadily decreased in cost over time. This shows great promise that the technology can one day be used in schools and companies across the board.
- It’s good for developing strategic problem-solving skills.
Critical thinking and problem-solving are at the core of learning and without these skills, new knowledge cannot be developed or applied. Virtual reality provides the immersive experience that’s sometimes necessary for users to quickly develop these skills and use them to create real and relevant solutions at a rapid pace.
- It provides a safe space for learning
Some technical skills are too dangerous, expensive, or inconvenient to practice in real life and are better learned with virtual reality. For example, VR can be used as a flight simulator to allow pilots to get used to the experience of flying before entering the airspace. This decreases the cost of training and the risks of a dangerous situation occurring.
- It allows for feedback and monitoring.
With virtual reality, administrators can easily monitor what users are doing because it all leaves a mark. They know what the users are seeing, what works and doesn’t work in teaching a concept, and what content appeals the most to users. This kind of feedback is revolutionary both for the educators who want to improve their teaching and for the companies that create these VR products and want to continue to innovate.
- It has uses in special education
Virtual reality has the potential to be used in special education. For example, children with attention deficit or hyperactivity can put on virtual reality glasses that allow them to concentrate and absorb the content they need to learn.
- It bridges cultures and allows for global problem-solving.
One of the most ideal applications of VR is that it promotes global learning by bringing together people from around the world to engage and interact. For example, a class in the U.S. can participate in a virtual trip with a class from China in a truly immersive experience that nurtures understanding and learning on both sides. The same can be said for industries outside of education. Collaboration and problem-solving could become a global norm and make way for new, innovative solutions to result more quickly.
What is augmented reality and what benefits does it provide?
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that enhances one’s current perception of reality by superimposing digital images and information over a user’s view of the world. AR works by scanning or viewing a trigger image with a mobile device that creates a resulting action, such as showing a video, another image, 3D animation, games, etc. Unlike virtual reality, augmented reality adds to the reality you would ordinarily see, rather than replacing it. AR is also expected to grow at a faster pace than VR. According to Digi-Capital’s 2017 report on augmented/virtual reality, the AR market will expand to $108 billion by 2021.
Augmented reality can be seen through a variety of experiences. With AR 3D viewers, you can place life-size 3D models in your environment with or without the use of trackers (images you can attach to 3D models). AR browsers, on the other hand, enrich your camera display with contextual information. For example, you can point your camera at a monument and learn about its history. Lastly, you can experience augmented reality through gaming that uses your actual surroundings to create an immersive experience. Think Pokémon Go, the extremely popular mobile app that captured the country’s imagination in summer 2016 by allowing users to catch virtual Pokémon hidden throughout a map of the real world.
As with virtual reality, there are some concerns regarding the benefits that augmented reality can provide, particularly outside of gaming. However, what started out as something “cool” has become a new way to engage users like never before. Here are some benefits to consider when evaluating the effectiveness of augmented reality:
- t’s relatively inexpensive
Unlike virtual reality, you don’t necessarily need an expensive headset to get the full AR experience. A simple app on your smartphone or tablet will do because these devices already provide the computing power necessary for many augmented reality applications to function. You don’t need to invest in other physical materials. Users can access the material from any device whenever they like, granted they have the right software installed.
- It nurtures the learning process
By initiating augmented reality into training programs and educational curricula, educators can ensure that their students will be more excited to learn. People in this digital age are more likely to be motivated and stimulated by AR, which means that through this new technology, instructors can encourage their students to dissect and learn new ideas and push them to think more critically.
- The options are endless.
Augmented reality can provide a myriad of learning experiences that speak to the needs of visual learners. From navigation to making repairs in the field, AR can make the learning experience easier, so you can get things done quicker. In the classroom, apps like Quiver and AugThat are providing a more transformational and engaging learning experience for students.
- You choose the complexity.
The beauty of augmented reality is that the learning experience can be as easy or complex as you want. You can create your own app or download one of the already-made apps dedicated to different content. So, the hardware is available and the usage is intuitive and understanding.
- It leads to higher retention
By simply scanning with their mobile device, any user can gain access to augmented models. For example, after scanning a photo linked to a 3D model of the Statue of Liberty and viewing its augmented image, students can then go directly online for more information on the famous monument. This experience creates a complete learning cycle, which allows students to retain more knowledge for longer periods.
As more people begin to use virtual and augmented reality, the more we can understand the potential benefits this technology has on learning and the more accessible and useable the hardware/software and price will become for users across various industries – not just gaming.