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Could VR Help Universities Teach Students?

Could VR Help Universities Teach Students? VR is short for Virtual Reality. According to Wikipedia, VR is a simulated experience that can be similar to or completely different from the real world. Thus, the application of virtual reality can include entertainment and educational purposes. Other different types of Virtual reality-style technology are argument reality and mixed reality sometimes referred to as extended reality.

Could VR Help Universities Teach Students?

Standard virtual reality systems currently use either virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments to generate realistic images, sounds, and other sensations that simulate a user’s physical presence in a virtual environment.

Moreover, someone using VR equipment will be able to look around the artificial world, move around in it, and interact with virtual features or items. Based on the keyword of this content, let’s look at what the BBC has to say.

Could VR Help Universities Teach Students?

According to BBC Universities are preparing to reopen but not all teaching will be in person, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 pandemic means that remote learning will also play a pivotal part in education.

BBC Click’s Lara Lewington took a trip to a university science department, currently devoid of students, to see how virtual labs could change science education as we know it.

However, the virtual reality labs provide a safe place for experiments that may be difficult to do in the flesh and offer universities who could not afford the kit, the same opportunities to experiment.

What does SINews Have To Say?

According to Study International when it comes to cool EdTech, nothing beats virtual reality tools in the classroom. The western university of health sciences has a virtual dissection table where students can learn about anatomical functions b moving layers of virtual tissue to view over 300 anatomical visualizations. Lehigh University, who is the center for innovation in teaching and learning is teaching students and faculty to use two HTC VIVE VR systems to enable them to employ these emerging tech in their future classrooms.

Virtual Reality is hailed as a revolutionary tool, with up to 60% of US higher education institutions expected to use the technology by 2021. However, new research by Cornell University serves as a caution that we shouldn’t be jumping onto the bandwagon too soon.

Studying 172 Cornell undergraduates and their understanding of moon phases, the findings show there are no improved learning outcomes from using VR. But for the study, researchers created three moons please activities for three groups of students- a traditional hands-on activity, a computer-based version, and a fully-featured VR version.

The traditional hands-on version: in this version, the participant (the earth) is holding a short stick with a ball on top (the moon). A bright spotlight (the sun) is pointed at it. Constantly holding the ball at arm’s length and spinning around mimics the illumination pattern of the moon phases in the sun-earth-moon system.

For the VR activity, students wore the Oculus Rift head-mounted display with two hand controllers running a simulation made using the unity game engine. What makes it different from the desktop version was the ability to use the hand controllers to move forward or backward in time. Thus, they can also grab the moon (using a cursor) to drag it forward or backward in orbit.

The last option sounds better but researchers found a significant difference between the teaching methods. Students had to take a multiple-choice test before and after all three activities. Before the test, the average score was about 36%, after the test, student scores increased to about 58% across all three approaches. It was very clear the method students preferred because 78% of participants preferred the VR activity.

The authors wrote, “ We found that, even with the interactive elements, participants learning was again equivalent across conditions, and that participants overwhelmingly preferred engaging in the VR condition.” A student also wrote “ Having an overall space helps a lot even in class, I still had a hard time understanding what they are talking about in concept. But I think I learned a lot in VR and being able to manipulate the environment on my own accord. It seems more engaging than the two other methods.”

Educators should be wary of student hype towards VR and using the tech to replace traditional teaching methods. Sam Smidt, Director of the UCL Arena Centre for Research-based Education,  speaking to Times Higher Education said his institution has argued for the wider engagement of VR, championing its potential to “teach in ways, or explore concepts, that are not easily delivered in the face to face or computer simulation environment.”

Expert in technology-enhanced learning explained, “The fact that students appear to have a strong preference towards Virtual reality doesn’t in itself show that it worth using, although, it is an encouraging finding.” Moreover, Cornell’s study is a particular example, reproducing a well-established approach to teaching a concept in a new environment, and we should not be too surprised that the learning was not significantly different.”

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