Teaching via VR in the next step in Education

Virtual Reality , VR in short is a very advanced technology, which is an integration of computer science, robotics, instrumentation, multimedia, sensors, optics, 3-D technology, etc. Each technology, which converges to form VR, in itself, is very sophisticated and hi-tech. VR is a powerful user interface technology. This current technology doesn’t even require physical presence of a person. Information is important and this promising technology provides the best way to visualize it, enabling directly interaction for the user.

VR has full-blown applications in industries like automobile and aviation. Its implementations are now being expanded to fields like education and medicine. In education, Mutual Telexistence (convergence of VR and robotics), Virtual Rooms and Distributed VR have emerged. In medicine, very advanced softwares have been developed to treat growing number of painful procedures. Some of the examples include:

a. Wound care of burn patients

b. Endoscopic therapy after Single Event Multilevel Surgery (SEMLS) for cerebral palsy

c. Dental pain and anxiety

d. Pain/anxiety during injections

e. Overcome phobias like spider phobias

f. Treat various anxiety disorders like Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

g. In artificial limb development

Virtual Environments (VE) for education have been discussed in various ways. While advanced multi-user educational VEs are still a speculation, simpler VEs based on standard technologies have been in existence for some time.

For distance education purposes, distributed VR is useful. Virtual Reality system can be networked to support multiple-user immersion environments joined over long distances. The sites implementing VR technology must be networked using low band modem-to-modem over telephone lines, the Internet, and high bandwidth telecommunications. The emergence of the Virtual Reality Modeling Language (VRML) as a standard method of modeling virtual reality objects and worlds coupled with the wide spread deployment of WWW browsers that support VRML allows the creation of such distributed virtual environments, which can be accessed through Internet. This paves the way for participation of more geographically dispersed users in multi-user virtual reality interface systems.

Applications of VR

The fields in which VR has been implemented are summarized below-

Education and conferencing.

Civilian and military training simulators.

Business and scientific visualization.

Architecture, design, prototyping (Research and Industry).

Art and leisure.

Surgery and rehabilitation.

Telexistence, tele-immersion and Immersive 3D virtual environments (IVR).

SnowWorld, SpiderWorld, ChocolateWorld, SuperSnowWorld.

VR in Education

Virtual Reality technology offers educators a truly new and innovative way to teach and engage students. It is a cutting-edge technology that allows students to step through the computer screen into a 3D interactive environment. Using a special headset and glove, it places students inside of a simulated virtual environment that looks and feels like the real world. Integrating virtual reality into everyday learning has revolutionized teaching and learning processes.

A helpful analogy to better understand the nature of the virtual environment is that of a student exploring a forest for the first time. A student will best learn about the forest not from reading about it or listening to someone talk about it, but by walking into it – becoming a part of it. The student is free to explore the forest any way he/she likes. The biology class where students are learning cell structure is supplemented by a trip to the Virtual Reality Lab where students enter and explore a human cell. Discovery and experience become the best teacher.

Virtual reality is created by an impressive, exciting technology that engages the student. It draws its power from three principles: visual, experiential, and self-directed learning, the most effective ways to teach students. Virtual reality allows students to be fully involved in their education, instead of merely passive observers, focusing first and foremost on the learning needs of students. The age-old problem educators face is how to better involve students in their studies. Traditional teaching methods have sometimes not been effective in the goal of seizing students attention, relegating students to a passive role in the classroom.

Understanding virtual reality-based learning means understanding the shift from text-based education to multi-sensory, experiential learning. Virtual reality copies the way people have always learned – by interacting with the world. It allows hands-on activities to facilitate active learning.

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