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Covid19, News, Start-ups, Technology, Virtual Reality

3 Use Cases Of Virtual Reality In Higher Education

Siim Pettai

Siim Pettai, Writer
@uxconnections

The virtual reality market is growing rapidly. Currently valued at $15.8bn, the market is expected to reach $120.5bn by 2026.

Growth is driven by the traction the technology is gaining in numerous sectors, including education.

With universities being forced to undertake remote learning, the need for virtual technologies is higher than ever. From enhanced learning experiences to student recruiting, virtual reality (VR) has the potential to transform the way universities teach and attract new students.

Here are three use cases of virtual reality (VR) in higher education, illustrated with real life examples:

1. VR For Open Day Tours

© Unsplash

Several universities have begun offering virtual campus tours as COVID-19 makes hosting physical events difficult. 

For instance, University of Cambridge recently hosted a 15-minute virtual reality library tour. The experience allowed prospective students to join a guided tour and see what the university’s library looks like.

University of Southampton also released a series of VR videos aimed at prospective students. The videos were created by the university’s own students to let new applicants get a glimpse of what their life might look like after enrolling.

Offering virtual tours like this gives students a chance to experience the university atmosphere without leaving their homes. The experience is even more beneficial for international students who are unable to travel to another country for an open day tour.

And offering a VR tour doesn’t mean students must have dedicated headsets. Students can also access these interactive tours via their smartphone, tablet or computer.

Alternatively, students can use Google’s Cardboard product, which allows them to turn their smartphones into a virtual reality headset. At £15, the Cardboard makes accessing virtual reality widely affordable.

2. VR For Hands-On Learning

© VirtualSpeech

Virtual reality promotes hands-on learning through experience rather than theory. Using VR, universities can put their students in real-life situations to teach them practical skills.

For instance, VirtualSpeech is a virtual reality app that helps students enhance their soft skills. The app immerses students into real-life situations, such as a job interview or a sales presentation. It is a great way for students with speech anxiety to practice public speaking in a safe environment without a real-life audience. The app is already being used by numerous universities in Europe and Australia.

University of Westminster has created a VR space for criminal law students. The game presents law students with a scenario in which they have to search for clues and build a murder case. Using the Oculus Rift headset and an Xbox gaming controller, students navigate their way through the crime scene and search for clues.

Some universities have also leveraged VR to create virtual science labs. For students, VR labs provide a safe environment to conduct experiments in without any danger.

3. VR For Virtual Field Trips

© Alchemy Learning

Using VR, universities can also take students on virtual field trips. Field trips are a common component of programmes in areas such as geography and anthropology.

In the United States, tech start-up Alchemy Learning took students on a virtual trip to the Amazon. The start-up’s VR game invites students to take pictures of the wildlife in the rainforest. The game also quizzes students on what animals they might come across along the way.

To make VR trips more accessible, Google has developed an app called Expeditions. The app allows teachers to take students on VR trips across the globe and explore AR objects.

The way the app works is simple. The classroom has to download the Expeditions app, and connect their devices to the same WiFi connection. Then, it is possible to choose from over 1,000 AR and VR tours. Teachers can take students to explore, for example, Antarctica, or transport them to a tour of the American Museum of Natural History. Google Expeditions allows teachers to be the guide of the group. This means they can control the tour and point out interesting things along the way.

Although students can use their smartphones to access AR features, a kit is required for virtual reality experiences. That’s why Google has created expedition kits for groups of up to 30 students. Each kit includes two devices, virtual reality viewers, chargers and a router.

Conclusion

The adoption of virtual reality in higher education will continue to increase over the next few years. It is unlikely to replace face-to-face teaching. Yet, it remains a great way for universities to attract new students, as well as enhance the overall learning experience. Recent improvements in affordability and accessibility have also set a great base for the technology to guide the next generation of teachers and learners.

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