One of the main challenges of online education is keeping the learner engaged, as both the attention spans and efficient effort concentration time keep decreasing. The learners nowadays should be engaged within the first 8 seconds of the session or they lose focus and can concentrate on the task for 15 minutes max before they are distracted. This is why various instructional design techniques for learner engagement are widespread.
However, despite making the emphasis on video, infographics, tests and quizzes, gamification, social network integration, learning management systems nowadays can provide so much immersion only. The learner is still in front of the screen and cannot interact with the instructor amidst the video.
VR offers a whole other level of immersion, where the learner can interact with items and characters in the virtual surrounding and gets a much more engaging experience in comparison with online courses or brick-and-mortar education.
Here are just some examples how VR is used nowadays in learning, entertainment and training:
- Google offers their VR headsets to schools for free along with educational field trips.
- Microsoft immerses the players into Minecraft metaverse using Rift virtual reality. This also helps the children express their creativity through building and exploring in the virtual world.
- Conquer Mobile tests surgical training simulations to help medics.
- The largest bank of Australia allows applicants explore their potential working environment through VR.
- CITEC lets you have our own VR gym. Personal trainer included.
- NASA uses VR for preparing astronauts for upcoming missions.
Photo credit: NASA
- Toyota teaches the teens to drive with their TeenDrive365 campaign to deliver immersive driving experiences without endangering the drivers, vehicles and pedestrians.
- The US Military uses VR to train soldiers, which also helps minimizing training expenses.
Photo credit: US military
- Siemens and other companies from oil and gas, chemical, metallurgy and other high-risk industries also benefit from providing such employee training simulations. When the outcomes of the decisions can be simulated in virtual reality, the mistakes will not lead to damage and casualties, greatly increasing the efficiency of the training.
Thus said, VR will undoubtedly find even more ways into the eLearning industry, yet it has both pros and cons and we will list them below.
Why using virtual reality in eLearning can be beneficial?
- Immersion into the learning. VR set blocks distractions like social networks, phones, TV ads and other informational noise, allowing the learners to concentrate on the learning. Submersion into an interesting 3D simulation with lots of potent stimuli leads to naturally improving the brain’s ability to process new information, granting the unprecedented level of knowledge comprehension.
- Personalized learning environments.Designers can create any environment to provide comfort for the learners. Every learner will be able to choose the surrounding that fits them best — a forest, a seashore, a sunny lawn, starry skies in the night. This will help the learners forget they sit in a classroom and relax to comprehend new knowledge better.
- Training both knowledge and physical skills. Serious gaming and simulations can reach quite another level, where a worker will have to execute the correct sequence of movements (open the toolbox, take the right tool, shut down the valve, cut the needed wire, pull the correct switch, etc.) Such exercises will create muscle memory, helping the employees be prepared to dangerous situations without incurring great expenses on the company and cutting down the risk in a dangerous simulation.
Even though virtual reality is in its infancy nowadays, it already has much to offer in terms of eLearning. As time will pass, more and more applications will reveal themselves.
Factors slowing down VR implementation in eLearning
- Financial restraints. VR set nowadays is a sizeable investment, which limits its usage to a pretty narrow circle of tech geeks and early adopters, treating it more as a toy than a tool for education. Smartphones were also not too widespread 10 years ago and now almost 80% of the US or EU population have them. We are sure that with time VR sets will also become more affordable and turn into ubiquitous parts of our lives.
- Hardware requirements. As of now, VR set requires quite an expensive computer to process the immersive simulations. Add the high-speed unlimited Internet connection (for delivering eLearning) into the equation and you end up with significant hardware requirements. As hardware development will progress, computing power level needed for delivering immersive educational simulations will become lower, leading to wider adoption of VR in eLearning.
- Physical limitations. When people see the VR goggles, they rarely think of all the accessories like manipulators that actually form the VR set needed to provide full immersion into the virtual reality. This system limits the freedom to move as it needs to be stationary. mLearning is on the rise, because people want to learn whenever and wherever they want, the feature VR cannot yet provide. Once VR sets become more compact and ergonomic, their adoption potential should grow exponentially.
- Physiological issues.Unfortunately, nausea is quite probable when using a VR set due to the issues with screen latency. The manufacturers are doing their best to overcome the challenge, and it is only a question of time. However, the issue still persists and limits the use of virtual reality in eLearning greatly. Such distractions are not helping in learning, to say the least.
As you can see, the use of virtual reality in eLearning promises some great results and faces some dire challenges. The most important question, however, is this one: will you be ready to implement VR into your eLearning practices once its issues are dealt with? Sharp-minded entrepreneurs should have ready methodologies in place to reap the benefits once the technology is ready for mass adoption.
What is your opinion on the use of virtual reality in online learning? Did you experience VR firsthand? Can you think of some new VR applications for online education? Share your thoughts, we are always glad to hear from you!