Virtual reality (VR) involves the use of technology to enter an alternate, three-dimensional (3D) view of the real world, a fantasy world, or a combination of both using a desktop computer or a mobile phone with or without a headset and possibly with additional equipment like gloves to enhance interactivity. Besides the visual component, a VR experience may include movement, text or speech communication, and sensory components. Virtual reality applications can be represented as a continuum that includes augmented reality, mixed reality, and true virtual reality.
Evidence of Efficacy - Benefits
Facilitate the acquisition and practice of skills
|coffee making, construction safety, surgical skills, aircraft fire drills, occupational safety|
|Provide opportunities to explore distant, dangerous, or inaccessible locations||the Galapagos Islands, the Great Wall of China, the 2015 earthquakes in Nepal, visit satellite learning locations, 16th century Spain, real estate open houses|
|Bring together distant people for educational purposes||distance learning, satellite sites, language learning|
|Enable learners to take on the perspective of others||homelessness, pain management|
Learning in Three Dimensions (Educause, 2018) concludes that VR enables both active and experiential learning. XR for Teaching and Learning (Educause, 2019) describes how VR can be used to achieve learning goals, develop skills, facilitate experimentation, and provide opportunities for authentic problem solving.
In order to ensure an effective VR learning experience, careful consideration must be given to the its design. A VR learning experience should:
- aim to achieve preset learning outcomes,
- be supported by a strong pedagogical design,
- be used to enhance, not replace, other modes of learning, and
- be regularly evaluated for effectiveness and revised, as needed.
Cybersickness and cognitive overload are two barriers that have previously slowed VR’s adoption as a learning technology. Both are the focus of ongoing research and technological initiatives. The following strategies can be useful in minimizing these barriers to learning:
- Preparation: Allow time for students to become familiar with the technology to prevent distraction and frustration
- Pretraining: Familiarize students with key concepts beforehand to facilitate deeper learning during the VR experience
- Minimize distractions: Distractions and interruptions from outside sources can interfere with learning
- Segmentation: Less immersive experiences may be segmented and interspersed with generative activities or formative assessments that encourage repetition, if needed
- Self-direction: When segmentation is not possible, a learner-directed experience can decrease cognitive load
- Simplify the experience: Avoid extraneous use of text and audio to minimize cognitive load
- Signaling: Utilize signaling principles to highlight key concepts
- Repetition: Provide the opportunity for students to repeat the experience to maximize learning
- Research: Research and development is ongoing and instructors would benefit from staying up-to-date on the most recent insights
The Spongy Bog 360 VR Field Trip Project is an example of a VR experience that incorporates many of the strategies above.
It is important to consider accessibility when determining whether a technology fits the needs of your class. Accessibility limitations and Universal Design principles suggest that VR should be offered as one of multiple options in a learning program in order to minimize potential barriers related to auditory or visual limitations, cybersickness, or learning preferences.
Related Teaching Tip Sheets
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