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What benefits can virtual reality bring to teaching?

Virtual reality for teaching

Teaching is going through a major transformation leading to the use of new technologies.

Crédits photos : Pexels

Teaching has undergone a small revolution in recent months. New technologies have played an important role in this transition. New practices have emerged, and immersive techniques have proven their value to teachers. What are the contributions of virtual reality to teaching? Laval Virtual selected 10 examples of the use of virtual reality in classrooms.

Virtual reality and augmented reality have great potential for the education sector. The health crisis has been an opportunity for new teaching methods to emerge. Distance learning courses, virtual classrooms, virtual reality training, augmented reality lesson content… There are many possibilities for the evolution of teaching, and virtual reality is at the heart of this change.

New teaching forms

In order to organise a back-to-school as serene as possible, the Neoma Business School has decided to opt for immersive techniques. In partnership with Laval Virtual, it has opened a 100% virtual campus. It is the first school in Europe to adopt such an approach. The idea of Delphine Manceau, Managing Director of Neoma, was to be able to welcome international students despite the global context. The teaching team wanted a more engaging solution than a simple videoconferencing software. In the Laval Virtual World, students can interact, travel, attend classes, hold work meetings, etc. The solution facilitates student integration.

Virtual worlds are beneficial for students, but also for teachers. The research team of Mursion, an American company that uses virtual reality and artificial intelligence, has designed a training course for teachers. The simulation places the teacher in a virtual classroom, in the middle of students, to develop teaching skills. The aim is for them to learn how to manage students in the classroom, to control their emotions when faced with a stressful situation, and to build a relationship of trust and authority. The virtual training has been developed in collaboration with behavioural psychologists and educational specialists.

Immersive techniques are used to train teachers, but they can also improve how lessons are given. In India, teacher Basavaraj Sungari has used augmented reality during lockdown to bring more life to his distance learning lessons. He used the Arloopa application in his chemistry, biology and physics classes. He added 3D elements while he were filming himself giving lessons. For example, during a lesson on the solar system, planets appear next to him, allowing him to explain the concept of a solar eclipse. This is a way of making distance learning lessons more attractive and interactive than a simple video conference.

The emergence of immersive experiences in the classroom

Immersive techniques, especially augmented reality, have been used in classrooms for a couple of years now. In certain disciplines, they contribute to a better understanding; for example in geology, where observation is essential. But it is not always easy to take a class outside and especially to be able to observe particular rocks. A group at Washington University in St. Louis is developing augmented reality applications with 3D rock representations. The student can turn around the element and manipulate it, just as they would with a real rock in their hands. The use of augmented reality allows the teacher to be present with his class, since the students are not immersed in an VR headset.

Seek Education offers immersive contents with the same ambition: to help in the understanding of certain lessons. In particular, the company emphasizes that augmented reality is a good tool for distance learning. Indeed, a simple smartphone or tablet activates AR content. For example, students can explore a DNA sequence from home, after the teacher has done his lesson at a distance, by videoconference.

Augmented reality allows elements to appear to facilitate the understanding of complex concepts.

Virtual reality can be useful in other teaching disciplines such as history. By immersing yourself in a particular historical period, you will be able to understand it better. The War Remains experience aims to raise awareness about the reality of the First World War. By putting on the virtual reality headset, the user finds himself sitting in a trench, surrounded by soldiers and the sound of bombing. Virtual reality is particularly engaging for the students, it helps to stimulate their interest. Here, the aim is to take them out of the traditional lesson and let them experience a historical event.

Virtual reality is also a way to learn. VRtuos is an application that aims to give piano lessons via VR headset. It combines physical piano and virtual piano. How does it work? The player can calibrate the virtual piano with his real piano. Then he can play on a real piano. Meanwhile, in the VR headset, the application indicates where to place the fingers on the keys. This tool has great potential, allowing you to learn melodies faster, while trying to memorise the keys and therefore the notes.

Training future professionals in virtual reality

Of all the uses of immersive techniques, the training is on the podium. Virtual reality is perfectly adapted to the training of professionals. The rate of attention and retention of information is higher. It is the perfect tool to train the professionals of tomorrow. Virtual simulations immerse them in their future work environment. In New Zealand, the government organisation WorkSafe has developed a virtual training module for agricultural students. The simulation places them on a farm, where they have to identify risks and apply the safety rules they have learned in class.

Virtual reality is perfect for risk awareness. Immersion allows you to be safe, and to be able to make mistakes without dangerous consequences. This is why the Arts et Métiers Institute of Laval has chosen virtual reality. The teams have designed Dactyléa: it is a simulation that allows a chemical experiment to be reproduced without risks. Artificial intelligence guides the student in each of his gestures. No error has any consequence in this virtual simulation. No danger of explosion or bad chemical reaction.

The same is true in the medical field, where again making a mistake can have serious consequences. Virtual simulations are the ideal tool for training young doctors. FundamentalVR has created a platform for medical students to practice in virtual reality. The tool allows several people to meet virtually, so that students can work together. It is also an opportunity for a professor to give distance courses and give demonstrations in a more interactive way.

Virtual reality thus has much to offer teachers. Although it will never replace traditional teaching methods, it is a very good tool to support students in their learning. Their concentration and ability to retain are more important, and virtual reality allows them to repeat their gestures without being afraid of making a mistake, which increases their confidence. Virtual reality classes are also an opportunity to collaborate at a distance in a time when teaching is undergoing a major transformation.

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About author

Content editor at Laval Virtual. Obsessed with adverbs and punctuation, synonyms and keywords are my daily guides. I hunt innovative use cases about VR/AR and immersive tech.
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