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Virtual and Augmented Reality Aids Better Learning

Digital transformations in the education sector are working wonders. Here's how these innovations motivate students to learn, retain and grow

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Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have been extensively discussed for over a decade. Commonly known as Immersive technology, these have introduced a new way of learning, and understanding concepts. 

VR has brought a paradigm shift in learning, and can change the way people look at education. The K-12 education model has been dependent on textbooks and blackboard for centuries. VR can enhance the entire learning experience and transform the traditional, somewhat passive method of education into an immersive and engaging one. VR based immersive and experiential learning results in higher retention of the subject matter, and deeper level of engagement in a distraction free environment. It offers a fun way of learning for students which motivates them to go to school and learn.

Let’s look at some examples of how VR can help. A student with the help of VR can understand the principle of kinetic and potential energy while experiencing an interactive Roller Coaster ride in a virtual world. A student can go inside a leaf in a virtual world to learn what photosynthesis is all about which is not possible in the real world. A virtual science labs can be created to let learners do experiments and activities virtually. This provides a safe, easily accessible environment where a student can repeat the experiment without any restriction. This can fill a big gap currently existing in schools, which cannot afford to have a physical lab for students. Further, VR can help students, who have learning challenges, comprehend difficult concept easily due to high level of immersion, interactivity, and engagement.

Like VR, AR can play a very important role in education and making learning more interesting and motivating. In schools, Augmented Reality can bring textbooks to life simply using a tablet or smartphone with a relevant AR app on it. This will catch attention of students by making the subject matter more real, interactive and immersive. 

The learning also extends beyond school education to professional training for skill development in areas like engineering, defense, automotive, and medical to name a few. The ongoing digital innovation of merging immersive technology with pedagogical methods of educating school going students or training industry professionals is a ground-breaking movement which has the power to change the way we learn for ever. 

CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS

There is a general understanding that Immersive technologies are very expensive, and difficult to scale. It does not have to be that way; the key here is to make immersive learning a practical reality for it to reach masses and bring a paradigm shift in education. 

There are three fundamental areas which can make it possible to implement this vision of immersive learning for masses. The absence of any of these would create an imbalance.

(1) Great depth and breadth of Content: We all have heard this before that Content is the King. This has become kind of cliché now. Well, it is still very true and even more so in the immersive technology space. Unless you have a very big library of immersive and interactive content, it will continue to be expensive and impossible to scale. No matter how much we like YouTube videos, unfortunately they don’t quite work with immersive technology. There is a need of extensive educational STEM library that can be configured according to the curriculum of schools in different states and countries.

(2) Affordability of Technology: The technology must be very affordable. Spending $500 on a device for VR based school education will not work for everyone. We have to be creative on how we can bring the cost of hardware down. Huge investments happening worldwide in the AR/VR hardware innovation and App development toolkits launched by the likes of Unity Technologies, Microsoft, Google, Apple and several others should help.

(3) Awareness: One cannot emphasize enough on how critically important the social awareness is in this area. People have been getting educated for hundreds of years in a certain way. There is some natural hesitance, and resistance to the idea of changing. There is a fear of losing jobs. Questions like, “Will AR/VR take over my classroom?” and many more often arise. The key message is - Education does not go away; Teachers don’t go away. The role of teacher may change to that of a facilitator and mentor, but we definitely need them. Augmenting the current education system using digital innovation and immersive learning to bring the learner, “a student”, in the centre of the equation is what is needed. Because at the end of the day a student is the one who learns and to whom we want to teach. A student’s motivation to learn; ability to retain knowledge and grow is what we can call a success: a success in a real world by unlocking the power of learning in a virtual world!

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house



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