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How virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality could be used in education

Christina Mercer | Feb. 1, 2017
The biggest barrier to full adoption of these technologies in education is cost

vr in classroom istock steve debenport
Credit: Computerworld UK

Virtual reality is well publicised in the world of gaming, with VR products flooding shops and magazines over the past few years. In education, some schools are already trialling VR as a way of offering new and engaging ways of teaching and learning.

Mixed reality and augmented reality, while less familiar in the education space, has proved to be successful in other areas such as museums and construction. But the technology used in these environments could easily be translated to school and universities.

Like with most things, the biggest barrier to full adoption of these technologies in education is cost. And while mobile VR such as Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear VR offer great (and cheap) alternatives to full VR units, the VR apps available are still somewhat limited.

On the other hand, mixed reality and augmented reality in theory offer the best learning experience, with AR offering - in the long term - a relatively cost-effective option for schools to provide classwork that can work nicely with AR apps, making the content 'come alive' in the classroom.

Mixed reality products like Microsoft's HoloLens offers great potential in education with benefits for architecture and medicine training being well promoted by the tech giant. However, as Microsoft only offers two options, the developer HoloLens coming in at £2,179 and the enterprise model costing £4,529, the cost of this could be enough for education institutions to write it off completely.

How could virtual reality be used in education?

Virtual reality uses a computer to create a simulated environment. Users are within that simulated world, rather than outside looking in like in AR and MR.

There are a few different types of VR, all offering different levels of immersion.

Google Cardboard and Samsung Gear provides mobile VR, that requires users to place their smartphones in a headset.

VR units such as the HTC Vive and PlayStation VR provides a totally immersive experience, and are connected to a computer (or a PlayStation in regards to the PS VR).

The benefits of virtual reality units in education are pretty clear; more student engagement, faster learning and better quality of education.

And, if you believe the hype, VR could reduce classroom disruptions from children with behavioural difficulties.

For example, a VR history class could transport students to Ancient Egypt to see how they lived and learn about the early Egyptian civilisation in great detail.

But primary and secondary education is just part of the education sector that could benefit from virtual reality.

There could be advantages for higher education institutions too, such as medical schools at universities which could benefit greatly. For example, students could get to grips with the intricacies of a surgery, go inside the human body to fully understand how things work and simulate any real life medical situation.

 

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