Virtual and augment reality (VR/AR) may become one of the most important tech tools in education across the next decade.
By 2025, the number of educational users using VR/AR headsets will jump to an estimated 15 million, according to a report by Goldman Sachs. And by 2021, Gartner predicts that 60% of higher ed institutions will use virtual reality technology to create immersive learning environments.
But there’s more to virtual reality than immersive learning, writes Erin Brereton for EdTech. Here are a few different ways colleges use these fast-growing tools.
1: Immerse students in the material
Immersive learning is a common application for VR/AR technology for good reason. Virtual reality gives students the opportunity to explore subjects through deep sensory experiences. And students want learning experiences that engage and excite them, says Robert Brodnick, founder of Brodnick Consulting Group.
Institutions use VR/AR in a variety of disciplines, from criminal science to fine arts. For example, students at the Western University of Health Sciences learn about human anatomy using a virtual dissection table. And at Hastings College, students use virtual reality to practice public speaking. John Perlich, a communications professor at Hastings, has his students recite their speeches in front of a virtual audience.
As VR/AR gains popularity on campus, some colleges are training faculty to apply the technology in their classrooms. At Lehigh University, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Learning trains students and faculty to use VR tools.
2: Prepare students for the workforce
Chapman University and the University of Washington are developing majors and courses to prepare students to pursue careers in the burgeoning VR/AR industry. Other institutions use virtual reality to help students explore career options. For example, at Fox Valley Technical College, one faculty member uses virtual reality to expose students to the day-to-day work of electricians and HVAC technicians.
3: Recruit new students
VR/AR also offers recruitment opportunities. In 2015, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) sent Google Cardboard headsets to 30,000 accepted students to let them virtually explore the school’s campuses. Within 12 months, SCAD reported a 26% jump in admissions, writes Brereton. For international students, VR offers an opportunity to get a feel for U.S. colleges and universities—without the expensive plane ticket. Services like YouVisit give international students a snapshot of college campuses through virtual reality tours.
How to get started with virtual reality
VR/AR technology has a reputation for being costly, but leaders can pioneer the technology on campus without breaking the bank, according to EAB‘s IT Forum. EAB hosted a panel of higher ed leaders from Washington & Lee University, Suffolk University, and the New School to discuss the adoption of VR/AR technology.
To ensure high ROI, our panelists suggested treating low-cost tools, like Google Cardboard, as a litmus test to guide future VR/AR purchases. Panelist Dave Pfaff commented, “At Washington & Lee, we started off with Google Cardboard because it was cheaper, but the technology was so impressive that we eventually acquired a true VR headset. The results were so dramatic that we soon bought several more.”
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