Virtual Reality (VR) has the potential to revolutionize industries like healthcare and entertainment, but a little known disruptive possibility for VR is in the education industry. VR is the type of technology that allows for a unique experience that can only be rivaled, if at all, by the same experience in the physical world. The advantage that VR has over the physical world itself is that it can let people experience things that are impossible to see in the physical world, or things that are imaginary in the first place. VR has the ability to allow students to observe things in a more inclusive environment, or to even interact with their surroundings – such as a VR flight simulator or surgical simulation training using VR. The possibilities for VR in education are endless.
One VR education experiment in particular called the “World of Comenius” is using VR technology to give kids learning experiences that they could not get before, like moving around a cell or meeting people from history and understanding the environment of others. “World of Comenius” is an educational software that aims to utilize the VR to show people things that weren’t possible before.” Similar programs to this one exist like Google Expeditions, which has aimed to provide educational experiences for all kids by providing teachers with cheap means to lessons that allow students experiences that are outside the limits of the physical world. Google says that their Expeditions program is accessible to everyone; “all teachers need to do is download the Expeditions app onto a set of devices and choose which one of the over 200 Expeditions they want to take their class on.” The only other materials needed are the smartphones and the smartphone headsets that students will use.
One of the leading developers of VR education is Unimersiv. Taking Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Learning” to heart, they claim that people retain 10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, but 90% of what they do or simulate.
It logically follows that VR is an incredibly effective learning tool that will enhance the speed of learning. Better yet, it is free. While it still has yet to develop into a full-fledged educational system, Universiv marks the expansion of VR into education. Who knows, if outfitted with a sophisticated system of performance measurements and copious amount of content, perhaps we will eventually be able to obtain college-level degrees through VR. The company that provided it would simply be selling a copy of the software – no campus, no buildings, no parking lots, no school supplies. Combine this service with a platform such as Slack with a teacher and other students, and we now have ourselves a pretty good gig going. Imagine how many doors would open up with this kind of affordable and highly effective learning. The question remains, then, whether or not colleges will be able to adapt to this disruptive technology before students open their eyes and realize they are wasting their money and time.
One issue with using VR to advance and disrupt education is the digital divide. Between the educated and uneducated there are many factors that come to play when it comes the digital divide and the continuous technological advances surrounding society. The ability to use the Internet, to obtain news, and to be involved economically tend to be the top tier points of the educational system we are involved with today. The cost and affordability of information and communication with technology deters citizens away from education and technology as not only a pairing but as a whole. This unfortunate situation creates a deeper hole in hardships rather than focusing on the expansion of technology and its advantages for the everyday person – no matter how big or small the enjoyment that comes along from using the advances to our advantage. Only 40 percent of people have the ability to own and use a computer. This statistic appalls me to no end. I believe we all should be more grateful to our lives and privileges given to us. I totally agree that new technology could provide society easier devices to use such as computers and mobile communication. But I also feel that many people across the world do not necessarily have access to the Internet. Since they do not have the personal means to purchase these devices, they find other means to access the news with word of mouth, newspaper, television, etc. There are other options out there for most to obtain this information, but for some, the goal of holding the news freely in their hands is simply unattainable. How this affects virtual and augmented reality is far from simple. Education in the classrooms allow students to explore outside the classroom while being in a physical one across the world.
Students are provided devices to allow them to “travel” all over the world to showcase history, technology, advancements, and so on. This allows the students to finally step outside the box of the linear path of thinking. They have never been taught to do something much more beneficial for themselves in the future because of this restricted thinking. Classrooms around the world have already started to prepare for this next phase in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. With these generations continuing to live in a technology based world, the baby steps of this process are to allow technology to be used and create a resourceful tool for these classrooms at all times. Classrooms around this city, country, and even the world are finally implementing the use of iPads, tablets, and video cameras that have many programs and resources for the students to learn from. These lessons that they will learn will change their lives dramatically, just like this Disruption, Technology, & Law course is doing for the majority of us. The goal is to teach these students these methods at an early age to ensure their path to success is continued throughout their entire lives without giving up on learning and falling behind like the older generations will eventually have to do. Virtual Reality is the next step in this direction, and it is important that we give our students the best opportunity possible to reach their fullest potential.
The world is slowly opening doors to the less fortunate by providing them computers. Children finally have a lost cost, rugged, low- power, connected laptop for them to finally own. This gives children an outlet to obtain a great education on their terms to truly learn, share, and create greatness together.
Scientists predict that by 2018 the number of mobile phones will equal the world population. These are facts that should awaken Governments all over the world. It also should awake the awaiting citizens who are looking for their great big break. This statistic means so much more than an arrangement of numbers, it leads to our futures becoming great again. People need to come together to power through the issues that keep us divided. As students in America who are blessed with much, being grateful for what we have is a great way to start contributing to this effort. When we are grateful, it becomes easier to help those who are in need.
The Knight Foundation has tried to find ways to bridge the digital divide in Detroit, where less than 40 percent of households have broadband access. They approached the challenge of the digital divide by focusing on three high poverty neighborhoods, and set out to fund a broadband network there in addition to digital literacy training. Partnerships were arranged between local community organizations, private companies, libraries and government by the project to fulfill its goals. The program’s achievements included a federal stimulus grant that brought in additional funding, and the donated, refurbished laptops. Through partnerships with the University of Minnesota’s Digital Divide Initiative and the Geek Squad, several hundred families have received refurbished computers for their home use and on-going instruction on how to safely use and maintain them.
In conclusion, VR is projected to have an immense impact on education, spearheaded through apps such as Google Expeditions and Unimersiv. These kinds of innovations will drive down costs and increase learning retention. But nobody said this would be a walk in the park; disruption is always messy. Colleges and other educational institutions are slow to change, and the digital divide remains a pressing issue at hand. In any case, VR will disrupt education and learning, and we should prepare ourselves for it.
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