Through time, the use of virtual reality across different industries and through various applications has become more common. Correlatively, this entails a growing number of users, which suggests that there will also be a wave of users that will encounter virtual reality for the first time.
As education industry experts integrate virtual reality in the students’ learning process, first-time VR users at school must be guided adequately in order to assure that the lessons being taught in a virtual reality setting don’t get lost in translation. As an educator, you must ensure that your students’ first VR experience is laid out properly to create a strong foundation for their virtual learning journey.
Understanding the stigma on VR
While virtual reality has already been around for a couple of decades, this technology has only been in the mainstream within the latter part of the last decade. Also, in recent years, virtual reality devices are mainly positioned for the mass market as a gaming device. Therefore, most millennials and Gen Z users of virtual reality can easily associate VR for entertainment. While this is normal, problems may arise if their existing stigma about virtual reality is not changed – or at least compartmentalised – once virtual reality is used for education.
Currently, about 23 per cent of teachers have used virtual reality either as a teaching medium or as a supplement to teaching, a UK study finds. The study also found that a third of all its respondents find it hard to “make things in the real world real and relatable” for students who have not experienced virtual reality before. It is, therefore, vital for teachers to break the stigma in VR first before learning can proceed.
Introducing VR as a learning tool
Using VR at school for the first time can be exciting for both teachers and students alike. However, lessons taught in VR may not stick well enough in a students’ mind if the introduction to virtual reality as a learning platform is not handled properly.
Before their first VR experience
One of the key steps when using VR in the classroom for the first time is to know the level of exposure and familiarity of your students with VR. Though it will help you to do your research about what kids think about virtual reality beforehand, a brief discussion with your class will allow you to personalise your approach. Knowing their level of familiarity will help you gauge whether they have an existing notion of what VR is. An understanding of the nature of your students’ existing beliefs regarding the functions of virtual reality will also help you redefine these ideas if needed.
If your students have a low virtual reality exposure, then you can just briefly discuss what VR is and proceed to their immersion. However, if students have a relatively high level of VR usage at home for entertainment purposes, then you should proceed with more caution. Because most VR platforms available for consumers today are geared for entertainment, students with an existing VR familiarity may have an established concept of VR as an entertainment tool. To address this, discuss that while using VR in school can as much feel like a game, it should not be viewed as merely an entertainment platform.
Due to the existing entertainment stigma of virtual reality, students may get too excited as you prepare them for VR immersion. As a teacher, you must create the right atmosphere in the classroom – one that invokes alertness and critical-mindedness. Too much excitement when using virtual reality could affect the students’ cognitive skills and hinder learning.
Once all of these are done, you can then proceed to talk about and introduce what they are about to see in their VR headsets. Just like any lesson or class discussion, describe the experience and ask what their expectations are. Stir their curiosity and mention a few goals that their VR experience aims to accomplish.
After their first VR experience
Once your students finish their first VR experience, start a class discussion and know what they think of what they saw. Encourage your students to describe their experience and ask what lessons they were able to get from this experience. Just like any lesson, a post-discussion will help highlight the most important ideas and avoid confusion among your students.
As you attempt to improve your students’ learning experience by using revolutionary technologies, you must also remain cautious when implementing such technologies. Virtual reality is undoubtedly the most innovative technology today, with applications that transcend pure entertainment and dwell into learning. It is different from current tools being used in education, requiring it to be dealt with great caution to set the right mindset among students and bring about the most effective results.