Virtual reality is not new. Simulation spaces such as CAVE (cave automatic virtual environment), and other simulators have been around for nearly two decades. However, the collective technologies that have traditionally gone into such largescale environments were astronomically expensive. But times are changing, and technology that was once reserved for those with the highest of budgets is making its way into all facets of everyday life—including delivering amazing up-close-and-personal experiences to enrich the learning experiences of fertile young minds.
For most schools, integrating virtual reality into the classroom is in its infancy. “It starts with building awareness,” said Maya Georgieva, co-founder at Digital Bodies, an immersive VR/AR/MR consulting group. A small number of students might have experienced Samsung’s Gear VR or Sony’s PlayStation VR headset, but the classroom experience is different.
Georgieva recommended schools first build an awareness about VR and AR outside of the classroom in an extracurricular activity. Then, employees can “think of ways these emerging technologies can connect to what are taking in place in the classroom. Often it is during these events that faculty see the potential of how the technology may connect to their areas of study, research, or classroom.”
Most places only have a small number of high-end VR headsets Georgieva noted. In these cases, other students in the class will see what the headset wearer is viewing on a video wall. “For me it’s not really about wiring every student in the classroom to have a headset on their face,” she said. “Where it is useful now is to enhance the learning experience by having students step into faraway places or witness something up close, and in some cases, being able to walk or interact with objects within the space. Then use these new experiences as an opportunity to enhance the classroom discussion bringing a unique perspective from having been there or stepped into somebody else’s shoes.”