Virtual reality in the classroom

There are two ways of using virtual reality in the classroom: the first involves a traditional desktop set up in which the student explores a virtual environment using a computer, keyboard and mouse. Or use some other input device, e.g. controller (similar to the Wii remote controller).

The second set up is fully immersive and requires the student to wear a head mounted display (HMD) and data glove – for interaction – within a virtual environment. This environment may take the form of a series of large screens or a complete CAVE virtual reality system.

The fully immersive set up will include a tracking system which is included in the HMD that records and analyses the student’s movements in a virtual space. This also has an effect on what they see as any movement of their head will cause a shift in perception due to the tracking device. They will see images which show the illusion of depth that only adds to the experience.

Example of VR in the classroom

For example: if you are a history teacher then your students may have the opportunity to explore a historic building or era in time such as Ancient Greece. They will be able to walk around a Greek city, e.g. Athens, and explore various aspects, often by using touch via the data glove. This is a great way of learning about day to day life in Ancient Greece which brings it to life in a way that books or online media are unable to.

So what we are saying is that virtual reality can be used in many areas of the curriculum. This includes maths, English, science, history, geography, languages and newer subjects such as design technology.

Plus there are students who respond to computer generated learning than traditional methods of teaching. In these cases virtual reality learning is an ideal way of engaging these students with a particular subject in a manner they are comfortable with.

Students can touch and manipulate objects within a virtual environment in order to generate a greater understanding of them. But this doesn’t only apply to objects; students are able to interact with data sets, complex formulae and abstract concepts that they may have previously found inaccessible. For some students, learning by doing is easier than learning by listening.