"Virtual field trips also make it possible to experience activities and locations that may be impossible, or extremely difficult, to arrange in real life"
Shailey Minocha, Newcastle College
Technology is continuously advancing. This is meaning the way we learn can develop too. As well as the internet enabling us to research at ease, our learning spaces and facilities are constantly improving too. Virtual reality is gradually becoming part of many industries and this is meaning that schools and colleges no longer have to be a case of sitting at a desk and learning via books. Here, we look at how VR is impacting the education sector.
You are able to get a better insight of your place of study even before you head to the campus thanks to virtual reality. An Ofsted report for Newcastle College praised the establishment’s world class facilities, and students are encouraged to take a tour of what’s on offer online.
Tours such as these can open up your institution to those outside of the area as well as local students. It can make your centre appear unique and special, helping you stand out from the crowd and is a lot more engaging than simply using photos to promote your space and courses.
In the not-so-distant past, most of our learning methods were based on a teacher lecturing us from the front of a classroom before we worked through a text book. Of course, this still happens, but there are a host of other opportunities available too.
Thanks to Open University (OU) courses, students are able to study outside of a classroom and lesson plans can take you anywhere in the world. For example, recently the OU took students to the Great Barrier Reef via virtual reality. The Google Expeditions technology allowed students to go on a virtual field trip to a location which would be near impossible for them to actually visit.
Professor of Learning Technologies and Social Computing, Shailey Minocha, developed the field trips for the OU and said: “Our previous research has shown that the high degree of realism now achievable in virtual field trips complements the physical field trip experience and in imparting fieldwork skills. Virtual field trips also make it possible to experience activities and locations that may be impossible, or extremely difficult, to arrange in real life.”
Class trips benefit students, according to reports, with 72% gaining a more thorough understanding of their subject and two thirds faring better in exams following more excursions. With virtual reality this complex situation will be a lot easier to organise, meaning that virtual trips could become a frequent part of teaching.
Having hands-on training is a crucial part of student learning. Doctors and mechanics, for example, benefit from carrying out ‘on-the-job training’ in work experience and in-class modules. However, due to its complexity, virtual reality can help when it comes to time, cost and controlling the health and safety aspect of this experience. If apprentices or students can take part in surgeries or engine changes in a virtual environment, their learning period will be significantly accelerated. This allows them to learn a potentially dangerous task in a safe environment.
Not only this, but this type of learning can also increase learner engagement and help more parts of the brain be activated, which in turn leads to information being stored for a longer period of time.
If virtual reality is used wisely in education, students will certainly reap the rewards. Technological advances are providing the tools to change the way we learn and teach, and virtual reality can be a big player in this.