For a very long time, the use of Virtual Reality as the next revolutionary method of propagating knowledge has been a point of discussion amongst its proponents. As the utilization of digital innovations keeps proliferating, the effect of its wide array of applications for instructive purposes has therefore become important to educational scientists and researchers around the globe. Of late, visual, auditory and interactive stimuli have been combined into virtual reality (VR) learning and are being conveyed as viable venues to develop student engagement in order to meet the intellectual needs of the current generation of millennials. An understanding of VR applications in education supported by rapidly growing exploration of virtual technologies, the developing enthusiasm for the ease of use of VR across multiple disciplines is hence essential to take advantage of its capability to change education the way we perceive it.
While one reason for this optimism is derived from the fact that Virtual Reality (VR) industry market is expected to grow $15.9 billion by 2019, a more worthwhile fact is that it could drive growth to $120 billion by 2020. However, it is also true that most consumers may not yet be convinced of what VR/AR offers and there are still many impediments in its usage in edutainment, particularly because of two reasons- (i) VR/AR efforts have been focused primarily on its applications in video-games and allied by-products and (ii) consumers do not necessarily understand fully what VR/AR is, or what gadgets are required, much akin to special glasses or cameras, thereby confining its utilization.
Even so, VR/AR companies are looking forward to importing VR in the field of education, which according to experts is a segment that will be converted in the next few years into a big global market. Currently, China is leading the race in this intersection between VR and education. Being one of the most important places where consumer electronics are made, China also introduces into the European and American markets most of the glasses and mobile devices required to consume VR/AR contents.
The idea of Virtual Reality (VR) refers to a wholly simulated reality, which is made by computer systems using digital formats. Building and picturing this alternative reality requires equipment and programming powerful enough to create a more realistic and immersive experience (e.g. VR headgears or dedicated glasses and 3D programming). On the other hand, augmented reality (AR) superposes engineered components such as 3D objects, media contents or text information onto real-world images, increasing its likelihood of interaction with the user. By contrast, Augmented Reality (AR) does not necessarily requires making a realistic illusion, and can be considered as an extension of VR, which blends vision from the real world with virtual components to create a real-time mixed reality.
A VR framework is trailed by three essential necessities, which are-
– Immersion alludes to a realistic feeling that enables users to have a presentation to a virtual situation.
– Interaction is a sort of activity that happens as two or more articles have an impact on each other; and
– Visual authenticity (i.e. a precise portrayal of the virtual world utilizing computer graphics apparatuses).
Emerging Opportunities for Virtual Reality in Education-
Virtual advancements have the capability of making students feeling more dedicated and motivated. It is, however, vital to comprehend effective instructional designs for a superior integration of VR/AR as there is still not a clear vision of how to incorporate these advances steadily into an educational process.
Generally, utilization of PCs as instructional guides backtracks to the mid-1950s, though genuine usage started in mid-1960s. Since the advent of microchips in 1977, PCs have become a recognized medium for many forms of education. Virtual reality, which can be utilized on almost all PCs, has simply followed this pattern. In any case, mulling over the quick revolution of versatile technologies like cell phones and tablets and the utilization of VR/AR is more practical and reasonable for educational establishments and students than ever before.
Is VR a good educational tool, then?
The utilization of VR as an instructive device may incorporate applications in primary schools to make cooperative conditions to encourage learning; in colleges (for instance, to make virtual articles and virtual models for preparing students to new advanced frameworks as mandated by their curriculum) and in various nations (for instance, in USA, France, Italy, Morocco, Romania, Switzerland) etc.
VR has also become a device for preparing college undergraduates in the correct utilization of instrumentations and for respecting the security rules in lab exercises. VR enables teachers to convey complex data in a visual manner, allowing learners to mimic, with VR technologies, circumstances which, in actuality, could be conceivably dangerous. In fact, use of VR in education can be done to aid and assist three objectives as given below-
(i) Provide an educational environment in which students can explore directly the concepts which they have studied in class,
(ii) Provide in-depth training to the students assisting them in subjects, and
(iii) Develop a knowledge base concerning the application of virtual reality methods to educational applications. This information base may then be applied to more intricate applications and propel future advancements.
VR has also been used in medical training in telepresence surgery, 3D visualization of anatomy for medical education, complex medical database visualization, VR surgical simulators, and virtual prototyping of surgical equipment and operating rooms, and rehabilitation. In primary schools, VR can also be used to advance immersive media for a better grasp on subjects. Leading economies in Asia have already successfully implemented these use cases and noted their immense benefits.
It is also important to note that all these educational experiences have one current problem- the cost to realize immersive VR environments is extremely high. The prices may drop if the market grows, but in terms of products for education, we have to pay much for modest quality hardware and software.