Is VR the Future of Education?

blog post | September 22, 2017 | by Cassidy Dwelis

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Back in 2016, Edward Quintero (Mold3D Academy) and Gio Nakpil (Oculus) had an interesting conversation. They discussed how groundbreaking it could be to produce an educational experience in VR.  Mentoring and teaching students as if they were standing right next to you sounded like the future, and they wanted to be the first to try it. 

At the time, it was a premature idea. The technology to support social interactions was still in it's infancy and their topic of choice; sculpting and art, didn't have the software to support this idea.

Features like Oculus Medium's Studio Share, allow multiple artists to interact in 1 VR environment together.

Features like Oculus Medium's Studio Share, allow multiple artists to interact in 1 VR environment together.

Enter Oculus, whose sculpting VR software Medium was beginning to gain popularity among 3D artists. As iterations of the software improved, it became apparent that this idea of education with VR could be a reality.

Edward and Gio quickly put together a plan for a VR Workshop, and soon afterwards Oculus jumped on board with the idea, offering to sponsor the event and provide equipment and crew. Everyone agreed this was a perfect opportunity to experiment with the idea of teaching sculpting in VR. 

While learning how to sculpt in VR is an experience within itself, the real breakthrough comes from teaching inside a VR environment. Studio Share, a feature in Medium that allows multiple sculptors in one virtual space, is a game changer.

While Nakpil had the ability to walk around the classroom, set up in a typical seminar fashion with rows of desks and one teacher workstation at the front, he could also do something once thought to be science fiction.

Instructor Gio Nakpil shows students how to sculpt in VR at the Mold3D Academy VR Workshop.

Instructor Gio Nakpil shows students how to sculpt in VR at the Mold3D Academy VR Workshop.

Currently, Studio Share allows for users to only work on separate sculpts, but this technology allowed Nakpil to hop into the virtual space of any of the students and provide direct instruction from within VR. Sound crazy? It reminds me of a Vulcan school from Star Trek.

Nakpil says, “I’ve always had a goal of exploring education and teaching in the VR space. Studio Share is the beginning of that goal. I was able to teleport to each student’s class session and give feedback, having to neither take off my headset, nor walk to their work station.”

Unfortunately, currently Studio Share is only inhibited by internet speeds, but that is a problem that can easily be fixed. According to Citi analyst Kota Ezawa, VR is expected to grow as an industry to $15.9 billion by 2019, and then to $200 billion by 2020. What does this mean for education? Companies like zSpace, AlchemyVR, and ImmersiveEducation are already plowing forward into the world of education, attempting to create environments where students are interacting with Augmented Reality and VR every day.

“It was really great. I’ve been dreaming about sculpting in VR since I was a kid and this was a really great opportunity to try it out…”
- Elliot Jackson, Mold3D VR Student

 

Mike Wadhera , the founder of Teleport, suspects we are moving out of the age of information. As we move away from the Information Age, fundamental changes in our technology usage can be seen. Posts to Facebook were down 21% in 2016, and Wadhera contributes this to the birth of Snapchat. More users want to see things rather than read them. Snapchat becomes more valuable to people because they can see their friends within moments of the post. This is why Wadhera developed a VR video sharing platform: to encourage users to live moments with their loved ones rather than just watch them in home videos.

 

Students learning in VR at the Mold3D VR Workshop.

Students learning in VR at the Mold3D VR Workshop.

The most essential component to VR education, according to Elliot Hu-Au with Virtual Reality for Education, is constructivist learning. Constructivist learning allows “students to construct their own knowledge from meaningful experiences.” This kind of mindset allows students of all ages to actually touch what they’re learning about, rather than just watching videos or reading books. Learning in VR also gives students control over their learning “in a consequence-free, exploratory manner, through which they become empowered and more engaged.”

 

ImmersiveEducation argues, using the Cone of Experience idea developed by Edgar Dale in the 1960s, that VR is the best way to educate people. By acting things out and saying things out loud, we reinforce our memory and will retain up to 90% of the information. By providing students VR technology, they will effectively learn better. 

Oculus brought this technology to the classroom environment to truly test its mettle. The students who participated in the VR Sculpting Workshop with Gio Nakpil were able to, for the first time, look into the future. 

Setting up to teach an entire class in VR requires an experienced tech team and lots of planning.

Setting up to teach an entire class in VR requires an experienced tech team and lots of planning.

As a student, this technology gives me chills. The opportunities for education are endless. Does this technology mean the end of physical classrooms? No. Certainly not. Students’ classrooms will be augmented in a way that we would have only dreamed about. Why look at a video of the Apollo moon landing when you could be at the Apollo moon landing? This technology, for older students, also opens up a lot of educational opportunities. If you are unable to move for school, you could always join a VR lecture hosted by your professor. Do you need to practice a surgery? Do so in VR.

 

Oculus has only broken off the tip of the iceberg in regards to education. Just like the introduction of iPads into elementary schools, we may just wake up one day and find VR headsets on our school supply lists.