Education is the foundation of a prosperous society. The transfer of knowledge has been the primary concern of human civilization from the very beginning of all time. People are constantly looking for ways to make knowledge transfer easier, faster, and more efficient.
In the era of digital technology, it is possible to make learning a much more fun process, because there is such a huge potential for improving the curriculum by using the experience of virtual and augmented reality, instead of monotonous reading of books.
Today, students usually get bored very quickly during classes. About 65% of these students can do better when they see it. Using VR in the learning process is one way to make learning more interesting and inspiring.
The most obvious advantage of using virtual reality technology is an advanced way of visualizing information. Virtual reality is truly a great tool for displaying objects, processes, locations, and historical events that are physically impossible to be explored. With the help of visualization, students can get an even more exciting experience from practice simulations.
Applications in virtual reality are used in those areas of activity where a person needs more than just a three-dimensional image of an observed object for effective perception (this can also be done on a screen monitor, for example, computer games, design and architectural packages), but it is important for the observer to immerse himself in the world of the studied models for more effective perception and interaction with it: where the observed objects and data are very complex or the reality of the perception of objects is very important.
The virtual environment allows a person to feel like part of the investigated world, excluding, whenever possible, all interactions with the real world (immersion effect). This effect is a specific difference from conventional systems of three-dimensional graphics, widely available on personal computers. A short stay inside the application using VR immersion makes a lasting impression on the user.
Let’s start with a small introduction in what types of virtual reality exist at the moment, and what’s their definition.
Types of virtual reality
Currently, there are three types of virtual reality systems:
- Regular (classic) virtual reality (Virtual Reality – VR), where the user interacts with a virtual world that exists only inside the computer. An example of this type of virtual reality can be seen here. By the way this is a demonstration of the application that I am developing as a diploma project 🙂
- Augmented or computer-mediated reality (AR), where is the computer-generated information superimposed on top of images of the real world for example by scanning QR codes. An example of such an application can be found here. And yeah, once again that’s my application :). Moreover, at the end of the article a small surprise is waiting for you. So keep reading.
- Mixed Reality (MR), where the virtual world is connected with the real and includes it. A video with a demonstration can be seen here. No, unfortunately this time this is not my application 🙁
Now we know what tools currently exist. But how can they be used for educational purposes, and not just for fun? Or better say, how can we combine learning and fun.
Virtual reality technologies make learning more visual
Virtual reality technologies encourage students to be more active, to fully engage them in the studying process. These technologies make it easy and simplify the distance collaboration and communication of people who are in the distance. For example, teachers and students are able to use virtual laboratories to study the world around them, develop skills, as well as demonstrate their development and automate assessment.
The use of VR technologies also eliminates such problems as lack of reagents in a chemistry lesson, because virtual reagents are always available in unlimited quantities, while the students will be safe demonstrating the experiments and the theft of chemical substances will be avoided.
Almost every educational course can be adapted so that students can self-study the materials independently, with minimal negative impact on the teaching process.
- The study of natural sciences. Virtual reality headset allows students to be in scientific laboratories, observe and conduct realistic virtual experiments, interact with macro and micro objects, travel to the world of mathematical objects, etc.
- The study of humanities. Students get the opportunity to visit museums and places of historical events, communicate with virtual models of historical personalities, reconstruct past events, etc.
- The formation of skills. Models in virtual reality give students the opportunity to safely and without fear of possible mistakes to form such skills as car driving,flying a plane, the development of which in real conditions is fraught with dangers or faces other restrictions (equipment availability, high cost of work, danger to other people, etc.).
- Educational games. This type combines all elements. Games in virtual reality allow students not only to interact with various objects, but can also include competitive elements and additional activities that can diversify the learning process.
As you can see, the scope of interactive learning technologies is quite wide. Basically, they can be used to teach almost any skill, for example driving a car or even higher maths. In both cases, the user can independently undergo a training with a high degree of material assimilation.
A fairly popular form of application of interactive learning technologies are educational games. The main advantage of this method is that it allows you to achieve a positive result with little effort due to its attractive form. In addition, the user can be trained in this form on their own, without outside help. This can be done by introducing some sorts of quizzes to test knowledge in order to determine how well the student has learned the material, and the test results can be sent to the teacher for further analysis.
But, using VR is too expensive!
I would like to dispel the myth that using VR is always expensive, because it’s not true. For example, it is not necessary to use such expensive devices as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. You can use a cheaper option by combining a mobile phone and google cardboard, or any other headset that can be used with mobile phones. Yes, image quality will be worse, and not all applications support such setup, but anyway everyone can touch the world of VR without spending a huge amount of money. You can even DIY google cardboard by using cardboard and lenses.
What about the VR disadvantages?
The only problem teachers may encounter are the time costs for helping to install the application on students’ devices, the need to provide a virtual reality helmet to each student separately, and the need to learn how to use the program. Nevertheless, if the application was originally designed to cover as many users as possible, then most of these problems immediately disappear.
However, developing virtual reality applications is more complicated than developing non-vr applications due to the number of so called “golden rules” that must be followed. For example:
- Sharp movements of the player’s camera should be avoided, otherwise the player may feel nauseous, and sadly some of the available applications violate this principle.
- Rapid light flashes should be avoided too, because they can also cause the user to feel nauseous.
- The number of frames with which the game is running is also very important, since if it is less than 60 frames per second, this causes discomfort.
Violation of these rules adversely affects the process of using the application, and these rules must be strictly observed, otherwise the developer risks losing a large number of users. That is why when developing an application for virtual reality, it is also important to optimize it as much as possible in order to ensure a given number of frames per second in absolutely all scenes. Unfortunately, the process of using VR causes discomfort anyway, but compliance with these rules allows extending the possible time of a game session.
In conclusion, I would like to say that I see a huge potential in the use and development of virtual reality games for educational purposes. An analysis of this domain motivated me to create my own virtual reality game for studying astronomy. I believe that if the application has a very strong immersive effect, then it is very likely to cause the user to have a huge interest in a particular area.
Moreover, with the current situation in the world, when practically everyone has switched to distance learning, this kind of application can become one of the main tools for online learning.
As I said at the beginning of the article, I have a little surprise for you. I offer you the opportunity to test my AR application. Android version installer and needed QR codes for printing are available here 🙂 (Sorry iOS users).
I have left a small easter egg in one of the QR codes, if you scan everything you will find it.
If you discover any bug you can create a ticket in Jira… Just kidding, you can contact me through my working email.
Thanks for reading the whole article, and for having the strength and courage to finally get here.