If you’re anything like me, donning a VR headset causes you to daydream about the potential for education. In terms of design, VR offers the chance to immerse the learner in any imaginable setting and, more significantly, to make it interactive. That is incredibly fantastic.
For a client, Filament has already finished its first instructional virtual reality project, and more are in the pipeline. The unusual diversity of organizations that have contacted us about using virtual reality for education is noteworthy and suggests that VR learning games may become more popular than conventional learning games. VR is being used in schools as well! Although still in its infancy, the technology has already shown enough promise to prompt organizations of all kinds to give it some serious thought.
I like to go into great detail on the learning game spectrum, which I use to distinguish between quiz games like Arcademic Skill Builders, educational or EDU games like Reach for the Sun, and lengthy crossover games like Civilization. A comparable spectrum of VR learning experiences is evolving, from look-and-learn programs like Google Expeditions and Lifeliqe to intensely interactive programs like Fantastic Contraption. Examples of the latter, while now uncommon, will quickly become more widespread as VR input hardware develops and hand location tracking gives way to digit tracking (perhaps as soon as HTC’s upcoming second-generation Vive controllers). The rest of this post will only cover the high-interactivity (and high-end) end of VR because Filament is primarily interested in how game technologies may be utilized to create rich, real, and complicated learning experiences.
We must first establish what makes VR distinct in order to examine how it alters education.
The same as in the actual world, you can look about and walk around in the virtual environment, and
You can use your actual hands to manipulate virtual objects.
That might not sound groundbreaking, but as they say, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. In this case, the total is the sense of presence that virtual reality creates, which is an incredibly effective tool for learning. Here are five ways that presence might enhance educational results:
It’s common to criticize formal schooling for feeling detached from reality and abstract. Indeed, inquiries like “why even matters this?” Students frequently express rhetorical outrage at what they perceive to be meaningless academic assignments by saying things such, “When am I ever going to utilize this in real life?” Games are Filament’s preferred method of instruction since they close the gap between knowledge and application, but they can also feel artificial. For instance, our game Diffission skillfully explains how fractions operate without ever explicitly tying the game’s universe to the real one. The player has the choice.
VR experiences feel authentic, as the term suggests. As a result, learning designers can use VR to totally eliminate the gap between a particular education objective and its perceived relevance in the real world, and as a result, boost learner motivation.
My son is a huge Star Wars fan. On Halloween, he came across a skilled cosplayer wearing a flawless Kylo Ren outfit. The picture below doesn’t show it, but he was totally engrossed. The effect of seeing Kylo Ren in real life surpassed that of seeing him on a screen. Despite the growing use of digital media in daily life, our brains are still designed to distinguish between real-world, embodied experiences and virtual ones. While “actual” encounters and those that are mediated by technology can both have an influence, we frequently favor the former. This explains why, for instance, young children who have no trouble watching realistically drawn dinosaurs on television might be frightened by even the silliest robotic dinosaurs at a live event. It’s also the reason why individuals cherish in-person interactions and find violence in real life to be much more unsettling than in the media.
Compelling, presence-inspiring VR experiences can have an impact that is comparable to that of real-world encounters, but they can do so by using created virtual objects. In other words, it’s a major issue that VR experiences may have an impact on consumers as though they were real. It enables learning designers to duplicate experiences that are universally praised, such as field trips and museum visits, without the significant cost and practical challenges. To be clear, I’m not saying that real-world experiences should or can be replaced by virtual reality. There is just no alternative for sampling actual stream water or gazing in awe at a real armor display in a real historical museum. I’m more excited about the possibility of producing high-impact experiences that would otherwise be impossible or very challenging in the real world, such as gathering soil samples from Mars or admiring a virtual suit of armor from a position thousands of kilometers away from the real thing.
Traditional games are prized for their entertainment value in large part because to the captivating alternate universes that they immerse players in. The degree to which the game closes the mental and physical distance between the player and the character they control on the screen is referred to as immersion. Since the player is the character in virtual reality, the default immersion gap is quite minimal. Because of this, even simple gameplay actions like throwing objects, pulling handles, and searching under desks can be extremely exciting in virtual reality. Immersion is preferred in education because it fosters engagement, which in turn promotes increased effort and focus and, ultimately, higher learning results.
The player-controlled avatar in classic games is frequently referred to as the PC, or player character. The player controls the PC with buttons, triggers, and directional inputs by using controllers, such as keyboards, mice, game pads, and joysticks. Because the player immediately inhabits the virtual space, as was indicated in point #3 above, there is no such thing as a PC in virtual reality. VR is ideal for education games that try to teach embodied learning objectives because it is an embodied experience (i.e., the player is the controller). Examples include games about building, performing surgery, changing a tire, working a crime scene, operating a vehicle, sculpting, conducting lab experiments, etc. It will eventually be excellent for learning goals that involve creating muscle memory once the hardware is less burdensome. Yoga in VR, anyone?
Identity is an effective educational tool and a logical progression from embodied play. For instance, it’s difficult to imagine playing the VR crime scene game mentioned above without becoming immersed in the detective’s persona. Of course, the same could be stated about any game that simulates a murder scene. The physical performance of the investigative tasks by the player in the VR version strengthens their identification with the character through embodied cognition. This phenomena has especially intriguing ramifications for VR career practice games, which allow players try on various professions like pairs of shoes.
We at Filament are eager to investigate these newly discovered instructional abilities. Of course, given the youth of VR, the aforementioned list is probably only the tip of the iceberg. As hardware improves (literally the day after I finished writing this essay I found out about the new wireless add-on for the Vive), new capabilities will appear, and as programmers imagine new uses for the technology.
So these were some of the reasons why VR and education are such a great match. Hope you enjoyed!