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Will Virtual Reality learning replace teachers in future? Benefits, challenges, myths and misconceptions of VR in edtech

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From real estate to education to tourism, virtual reality (VR) has been extensively used in several sectors. VR is one of the fastest-growing technologies these days and it is attracting a lot of interest from all spheres. Sensing its importance in the future, some of the top companies like Facebook have already started investing extensively in it. With so much money, time, and workforce invested in VR, expectations are bound to peak. The one sector that is seeing immense potential in virtual reality is education. With virtual reality disrupting the world of education, a new debate has been doing the rounds – will VR learning eventually replace classroom teaching? It may sound like a valid argument in light of the rapidly transformative technological pedagogies. Let’s have a look at how VR enhances the users’ experience, challenges and what role it could play in the future.

Virtual Reality Enhances Teachers’ Ability In Classrooms

 

Virtual reality strengthens teachers’ ability and empowers them to go beyond the limitations of textbooks. According to Sushma Sharma – Director, Career Success Strategy, LaunchMyCareer –  VR has the potential to create innovative virtual teaching environments to guide learners and apply the knowledge to real-life situations.

“VR offers a swift, practical and fun way to disseminate learning. It has been proven to successfully remove monotony, and facilitate ease of learning. Applied in the right way, VR can assist educators in preparing effective lesson plans, find creative ways to teach complicated concepts, and keep learners focused for longer durations,” Sushma Sharma told Zee Business.

Imbues Interest Among Learners With Low Attention Span

 

In today’s day and age, students are struggling with attention issues as they are overwhelmed and overloaded by information. One of the greatest classroom challenges has been to engage learners for a long span of time.

“Being indistractable is the single most important skill for the 21st century,” Nir Eyal, Stanford University lecturer and behavioural designer, once said.

“Complex lessons especially in science and mathematics fail to hold the attention of a majority of students. Learning in a virtual environment creates a distraction-free environment inducing higher learner engagement and better concept clarity. With VR learning, teachers and educators can make learning personalized as it enables real-time student interaction with the virtual environment. What’s even more heartening is that studies have found that VR can be used to detect ADHD, besides helping children with ADHD enhance memory and concentration,” said Sushma Sharma.

Engages Teachers And Students Alike

 

Efforts have always been made to improve the quality of education. With technology rapidly transforming the world, it is imperative for teachers to be open to recalibrating methods of instruction. It is important to realize the fact that while emerging technologies like virtual reality offer a singular venue to enact learning and practice skills, they also need teacher training, support, and opportunities for experimentation. The advantages of incorporating technology into the classroom environment are directly related to how technology is used in a way that is supported by pedagogy. Educators can lead the way in utilizing technology to foster experiential learning, creativity, and innovation in both real-world and virtual settings. 

Immersive learning in VR enables the teacher to serve as a facilitator, enabling them to devote more time to comprehending various learning styles and adding the required curricular modifications to the process. It is an effective tool for both teaching and learning, thus creating a win-win situation for teachers and learners alike.

According to Alex George – Co-Founder and Managing Director, of Information Technology Learning Hub (ITLH) – VR can improve teachers-students engagement in various ways.

“VR will be able to give a fast solution approach to teaching with a fun interactive one-on-one approach, mentorship, gamification, reward-based learning, aptitude based personal teaching, student progress tracking, streaks would be few of the ways VR will be enhancing user experience,” George added.

Boon For differently-abled students

 

On the other hand, Akshra Dalal, – Director, JD Insitute of Fashion Technology – feels that the technology is nothing but a stroke of luck for differently-abled students.

“For students who are physically challenged, virtual trips are arranged that make them feel real. They experience a location like it is right in front of them with advanced technology. Though in India this technology is not well acknowledged yet, we are gradually moving towards great heights to make this real. In terms of user experience, it requires less hassle and gets things done at your fingertips,” Dalal added.

Empowers Learners To Learn Anything In Simulated Environment

 

Virtual reality bridges the shortcomings of the traditional way of learning and acts as a key facilitator to make learning more effective, data-driven and engaging. As per Edgar Dale’s cone of learning, our current education system is only utilizing 30 per cent of its full potential. According to Abhishek Tomar – Co-founder & CTO, AjnaLens – most students are only learning through reading and hearing and only a certain number of total students are learning by watching videos (E-learning).

“With E-learning also, we are only utilizing 50 per cent of our full potential. What Virtual reality does is it empowers learners to learn anything in a simulated environment by interacting with virtual objects. Because of VR, teleporting to historic times, entering the world of atoms, or virtually practicing surgery is possible. The applications of VR in education and learning are endless,” Abhishek Tomar added.

Offers Increased Retention

 

As VR learning offers an interesting way of learning; it has been proven that it may boost information retention for a longer period as compared to traditional teaching methods. Researchers from the University of Maryland conducted one of the first comprehensive studies to examine whether learning occurs more effectively in virtual, immersive environments as opposed to more conventional mediums like a two-dimensional desktop computer or portable tablet. According to the National Education Association of the United States, retention rates for lecture-style learning are 5 per cent whereas learning in VR tends to have a 75 per cent retention rate.  

Photo Credit: researchgate.net

What Are Challenges?

 

Currently, the major challenge is the slower rate of adoption because of multiple reasons – higher initial investment by the individuals/schools/colleges, the learning curve of the teachers to understand, operate and teach in VR, and lack of VR experiences (content) for all kinds of learning.

Having said all that, experts believe that VR cannot replace humans or teachers. Rather it allows teachers to act more like a facilitator by empowering them with the critical data of their students.

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“VR will need to rely on Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning to make the entire process automated, however, even if we are able to make that possible, at the moment we are technologically behind in providing the ‘human touch’. Teaching involves a lot of personal human approach based on how the students are picking up,” George said.

For example, with VR, a teacher will know exactly the aspects in which a student needs help. Be it particular chapters, attention or focus, hand-eye coordination or more, a teacher will have more deeper and personalized insights for every student which is not possible until now. In the ideal world, a student will be learning the fundamental knowledge directly from a teacher, followed by a number of practice sessions in VR to truly understand, practice and remember those concepts and lastly improving on their performance and skill with the combined insights from the data generated in VR and the teacher’s experience.



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