Virtual Reality: The Next Logical Step for Education

We’ve seen the traditional education model and current trends in education. Without a doubt, modern technology integrated with education has caused disruption in education for the benefit of knowledge seekers. Although they might not receive college credit, there are free platforms available online to anyone wanting to learn, such as Coursera. Anyone that wants clarification in a certain topic can watch a tutorial video online on Khan Academy for free. All these materials are readily accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

We have managed to fit hefty textbooks and learning materials into a portable device, whether on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone. With all this knowledge available at the palm of your hands, the next step is applying that knowledge to the world, which is where virtual reality triumphantly comes in. In our early educational years, we learn about animals, so we take a field trip to a farm. Then we learn about Native Americans, so we learn about pueblos and teepees. We move on to Shakespeare and the Globe Theatre, World War II and the Berlin Wall. We learn about the struggles not only in the Middle East, but all around the world. Maybe we take an engineering class and want to observe the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Geography, travel costs, safety, and liability are only some of the factors that limit one from observing all these interesting locations, scattered across the world.

Virtual reality eliminates all of these barriers from education and wonder. Whether you want to see the Pyramids at Giza or the canals of Venice, Italy, it can all be available to one in the comfort of a classroom, bedroom, or wherever one pleases. If you’re feeling nostalgic and want to visit your childhood neighborhood or you want to learn about where your ancestors come from, it’s all possible. The possibilities with virtual reality are limitless, not just limited to a new kind of gaming experience. Google has acknowledged this and is working on making these virtual experiences affordable and accessible. With its Expeditions Pioneer program, Google is making these virtual field trips available for free for schools, starting in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Brazil. The program includes giving schools Google’s basic Cardboard virtual reality headset and smartphones to use with the headsets. Whether a school is well-funded or underfunded, students can all have the same kind of access. If you’re not a student but still want to have these virtual experiences, Google’s Cardboard is still extremely affordable for $25 or even cheaper. It’s hard to put a price on an unlimited supply of experiences, but it’s safe to say that $25 is well beneath that price.

Virtual reality may seems like an abstract platform for education, but it is exactly what we need to supplement our evolving education system. If we can access the classroom and educational materials from virtually anywhere, why not access the world from anywhere too?

8 thoughts on “Virtual Reality: The Next Logical Step for Education

  1. Patrick McDonald

    I have not personally used the google cardboard but I find it hard to believe it will be as effective as the normal field trip. Sure, virtually reality will become a great supplement to the normal Bill Nye movie and better assist in educating students on out of reach places or concepts. However, I will remain a major supporter of traditional field trips. Virtually reality is great but it is just that-virtual. Students can learn a lot about a farm from taking a virtual tour of farm but will miss out on half the experience of learning what it’s like to actually be the farmer.

    When I originally clicked on this post, I thought you would mention something far more personal to us as college students- the idea of virtual classes. I believe our higher education system will be drastically different in 10 years from what it is now. The goal of gaining a degree from a particular school will soon go out the window and be replaced by taking online classes taught by professors at multiple schools. The degree will instead be focused on individual courses taken rather than the classwork as whole from one university. For example, I may take a class on project management at UCLA, a investment analysis class at Texas A&M and a legal course at Penn State to better prepare me for life in management in the business world. But I got away from your original blog slightly.

    Accessing the world from anywhere like you suggested is exactly what could increase the benefit of taking online classes at different colleges when pursuing a college degree. No matter what direction the education system goes in the next few years, virtual reality will definitely become a valuable resource.
    Just a side note. The hyperlinks were extremely helpful as I have never heard of the google cardboard. Very insightful.

    1. Paras Patel Post author

      I understand that nothing can actually beat the experience of a physical field trip, but sometimes a physical field trip is not possible. After 9/11, my school district cancelled all field trips as a safety issue because of our close proximity to New York City and they were never reinstated. I never went on a field trip until high school when I went to a county vocational school instead of my town’s high school. I still have never been to a farm. Also, my school district was not the only district to take this precautionary measure, which was a reasonable action to take. Although we as students hated the restriction, we understood that it was for our safety, not because it was a money or distance issue. Had we had the virtual reality headsets during my time in elementary school, it would have definitely been beneficial to check out a farm while sitting in the classroom. Again, by no means is it the same as actually venturing out into the world, but sometimes that is simply not an option and we must look for the next best alternative, and I believe that would be a virtual reality experience.
      In an earlier post called “Identifying Disruptive Trends in the Traditional Education System”, I had actually talked about how virtual reality can also revolutionize the classroom too, especially in higher education. I didn’t expand on it in this post, but in the other post I briefly explained how virtual reality further extends online classrooms. Students, professors, and visitors can virtually sit-in and participate in a classroom from anywhere in the world. I know this can already be done via Skype or any other telecommunicating service, but virtual reality can take this a step further by actually immersing a student, professor, or visitor into a lecture without physically being there. I really like your idea about taking individual courses at different institutions and it’s not something that I had considered before. In a similar fashion, there is an online platform called Coursera, which offers free online classes from over 120 universities. Although you wouldn’t get credit from taking the class, you would still get to learn and should you decide to take a class later on for credit, you would already have a good understanding of the subject material. Although you did get away from virtual reality, it is still very relevant for education and an interesting possibility that should be closely monitored because it could be very beneficial for everyone. Imagine integrating Coursera and virtual reality- it would students to interact with students, professors, and others from around the world.
      Also, we all know how much Professor Shannon loves hyperlinks and this just shows how much more intuitive hyperlinks make material. Thank you for you input.

  2. Matthew Walker

    I am at a crossroads in my life. I have realized that the way I was taught throughout life, through hands on experiences in a classroom setting, is not the way the education is going. Last semester was my first opportunity to take a hybrid class. I absolutely hated it so I talked to the professor and she let me sit in on the classes in person full time. When I watched the traditional education model video I realized that is exactly me. I am that student who asks about the formula and not how it was derived. I wish things could be different but I was taught through the curriculum that my teachers gave me and was a great at memorizing. Has this affected the way i see technology today? Absolutely. I realize that Technology is a very powerful, but it is taking time for me to get used too. I think when used the right way it can be beneficial to everyone and can allow students to break from the traditional education model. . However, I just don’t see how taking a virtual reality tour of a museum is going to really give me that experience than if i were to go their myself and see things right in front of me. Aside from that, this is really good material and has really opened my mind up.
    Like my classmate Patrick McDonald says in his comments about “accessing a world from anywhere” I think is very cool. I too would like to experience what other universities have offer so I am all for that. I may have been harsh on the fact that i hated online classes, but i do see how they can be beneficial and see it as an opportunity for us to ask questions that we may want to find out the answers too.

  3. Mike Gavela

    I as well am also not fond of online classes as stated by my classmates above, although my experience may be biased towards blackboard. I have done do-it-yourself tutorials via youtube and a friend of mine has even learned java from online tutorials but a structured class online is a different monster all together. The question then becomes, how will virtual reality affect learning? As Paras mentioned in the above post the Google Expeditions program would be a huge step forward for learning k-6 as children would be able to learn about a certain region or culture and then be immediately immersed in it. I agree with Patrick in which why can’t there be other applications for virtual reality such as being able to sit in a classroom in a different university or seminar? Even looking past the google virtual reality kit what if educators where to use Microsoft’s Hololens instead. Wouldn’t that open more doors to possibilities when it comes to online education? The ability to see and interact with 3D models opens up a level of immersion beyond the world of 2d video today. Or even the way online classes are being run today and that is through emails, occasional assignment prompts and maybe an audio recording. The future of education will definitely be disrupted by virtual reality but the real question is what will become the new standard of online classes? Hopefully we will be able to become immersed in a different environment and interact with it using a technology like Microsoft Hololens. This would open new doors to education and possibly a way out for universities to avoid getting disrupted.

  4. Stephen Gallic

    Having just written a response to another article related to technology and its need for further attention in education it is intriguing to read this article. Instead of focusing on its potential in the classroom, Paras Patel noted the ability to take a student out of the classroom. Patel focuses on the concept of virtual reality. The ability to travel across the world while sitting on your couch or at a desk empowers students and educators to present a more visual oriented and interactive education experience. People are more inclined to watch a tour or history lesson online then read through a book and listen to their teacher for 5 hours a day. It is also very encouraging to read how Google has taken a large step in advancing this technology and making these virtual realities free. The program is called, Expeditions Pioneer Program and “includes giving schools Google’s basic Cardboard virtual reality headset and smartphones to use with the headsets. Whether a school is well-funded or underfunded, students can all have the same kind of access. If you’re not a student but still want to have these virtual experiences, Google’s Cardboard is still extremely affordable for $25 or even cheaper.” Reading about the efforts being made by google to utilize technology to its full advantage is very encouraging and hopefully its revolutionary trend will catch on. Patel writes it beautifully, “Virtual reality may seem like an abstract platform for education, but it is exactly what we need to supplement our evolving education system. If we can access the classroom and educational materials from virtually anywhere, why not access the world from anywhere too?”

  5. Marquise Moseley

    After writing my other two posts about our technology evolving I feel this may be a good post to follow this same trend. This article really brought an interesting point to the light. The idea of virtual education would be another humongous leap in today’s technology. The article by Paras Patel brought up the important point that “If we can access the classroom and educational materials from virtually anywhere, why not access the world from anywhere too?” Why not be able to experience the world anywhere? It is usually a life goal for everyone that they travel the world at some point, and what better way to make that happen especially for people who may not be able to afford it or people who are a little older than to have them go to where ever they want virtually. The article states that this product may not be more than $25 in some cases, and if you ask me I think $25 is way better than paying out thousands of dollars to do this same traveling.
    Some kids in school are hands on learners, and I think this would be a great way to help them out. If the school gets a bunch of this new technology and passes it out to the whole class then everyone could take virtual trips, and at the same time all of the students could all learn in a hands on approach. I am a very hands on type of learner, and I think with this technology it would have made certain subjects more interesting and I feel I would have been able to retain information better. Sometimes I would struggle with picturing certain things in my head and the ability to see it “first hand” would have made everything so much easier for me.
    Technology is progressing and I think we need to take advantage as much as possible. It is easy for schools to take a little out of the school budget and put it towards this incredibly helpful learning tool. It would give teachers the ability to make the world accessible for the students, and I know a lot of teachers that would love to have this tool while teaching their classes. The most important class that comes to mind for me in this case is history. History professors love trying to take us students on a journey across the world daily, and it would be great if this virtual reality tool would work and help us actually make this trip. It would make classes like history easier to understand and overall just give it an extra level of excitement. Google’s basic cardboard virtual reality headset would be a major discovery for our nation. It would put us head over heels above some of our competitors, and at the same time it would help us to develop as people faster. Virtual reality is a tool that I think could really advance us as people mentally and physically. I just hope that I am alive and around to see it the day that it is made possible.

  6. Nicholas B.

    Technology should become more of a part to learning in schools. Virtual realities can change the way students learn and help them retain more of what they are taught. This post shows all the advantages that virtual realities have over actually going to some of these places. Letting students see the places that they are learning about is a priceless advantage. This goes beyond students and schools. Adults that don’t have the time or money to make these trips can now “Visit” the places that they could only imagine seeing. There are some places that I wish I could see, but I don’t think it is worth the trip to visit sites where it doesn’t take much time to see what you want. For instance seeing the Pyramids or Stonehenge is something that I would only want to be at for a few hours is not worth the thousands of dollars and hours of flying. Virtual realities can make the impossible, possible.

  7. Lauren Gutowski

    I must say the idea of a virtual reality sounds interesting. I credit Khan Academy for why I passed 11th grade Algebra in complete honesty. There are so many advantages technology gives us. Not only that but it is much cheaper receiving a detailed tour of the Eiffel tour instead of spending the money on a flight to Paris to do the exact same thing. We could learn just as much sitting on our couch at home. I completely agree with the educational aspects of virtual reality but schools investing in technology for scheduling virtual field trips just sounds unsatisfying. Yes, students will definitely learn from them but nothing beats physically going to a country and experiencing the beauty of the country. Our modern society could not survive without technology; we are too dependent on it. But there is only so much it can offer us. We cannot rely on it for sole enjoyment. Who wants to go to on a virtual spring break trip to Cancun? Yeah, right. It’s hard to believe people will turn to virtual reality for a vacation, since you are not really there. But I bet schools will invest in more technology, such as Google Cardboard, to supplement our education.
    I remember Spanish class my senior year of high school; we learned about the culture in countries such a Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Peru and other Spanish speaking places. We examined all the popular cities, artifacts, ruins, rain forests, etc. but we only learned of them through PowerPoints and online articles. If we had access to virtual reality, my class probably would have gotten a better learning experience since we can see everything being described to us. A teacher’s lessons could be brought to life. I researched about the Expeditions Pioneer Program previously mentioned in this post and I found another advantage of virtual reality: this program can show us places humans are not physically capable of reaching. It offers virtual tours of the bottom of the ocean and even places such as the surface of Mars. Google also provides in depth lessons to the teachers on how to take full advantage of their product. “Google’s Cardboard is still extremely affordable for $25 or even cheaper.” That price is hard for the school systems to ignore. Virtual reality would be a great investment and I am sure we will witness the education system incorporating it as another teaching tool, probably a few years after we graduate. Maybe five or so. My one concern is the fear of how it will impact our sense of adventure. How will this affect how we view study abroad programs? These are the times for us to see the world. We’re all young without as much responsibility as say someone in their forties. I hope our society does not get so absorbed with technology that we begin to miss out on the beauty around us. There’s a reason they call it virtual reality: it is a fake reality (that was quite contradicting).


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