Page 34 - Campus Technology, June 2017
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Later in 2015, Erin Carson published in TechRepublic, “It’s been a decades-long journey for virtual reality, and 2016 will likely be its biggest step forward. This won’t be the year that virtual reality goes mainstream, but you’re sure to hear more about the technology than ever before with big product launches from Oculus/ Facebook, HTC/Valve, Sony, and Microsoft (although its HoloLens is technically augmented reality).”
Carson points to mobile VR as having the potential to
move the technology into the mainstream, but perceives it as an entertainment technology rather than an instructional technology, with its uses remaining mostly outside of education. Increasingly, however, more educators are looking at how VR can actually impact learning. Over the years, social scientists have dialogued about the benefits of virtual environments (VEs) in social research and their potential for training and education (Fox, Arena, Bailenson, 2009). In an Educause Review article, Georgia State University’s Bryan Sinclair points out that VR could become a mainstream instructional technology quite quickly if and when the technology becomes more accessible to users (Sinclair, 2016). The article continues with a conversation with a university faculty member who describes the benefits of the technology in “bringing to life” for students what otherwise would be impossible for them to experience.
As educational theorist John Dewey established long ago, effective learning is experiential (Dewey, 1938) — and VR provides a direct method by which that can be realized. VR technology is still evolving and moving more into mainstream, particularly with mobile technology, buts its effectiveness in regular classrooms and with online students is still being realized. As with simulation technology, many difficult and “risky” training experiences (such as those in medical and military practice) can be learned virtually through VR. That means that the cost of the training can be lessened, along with the potential risk of actual situations. Additionally, students can experience places and situations in the world they could not otherwise experience, and enrich their learning experience as a result. In regular classrooms, however, which are bound to text-driven curricula and test- driven outcomes, it will take longer to integrate VR and, ultimately, it will take longer for us to become more aware of the technology’s effectiveness in the learning process overall.
Possible Implications for Learning
At any learning level, there are always challenges for teachers to find ways to provide “real-life” contexts for learning and opportunities to experience something “first- hand.” Beyond specific uses of VR in military or medical training, what benefit could VR have for more text-based study programs? One obvious possibility would be providing
first-hand virtual experiences for students; for example, allowing teachers in training to observe classrooms virtually, giving environmentalists a virtual view of the devastation of forested regions, or letting sociology students experience human and social poverty around the world.
My sense is that VR experiences could help students develop strategic problem-solving skills. Critical thinking and relevant problem-solving are still front-and-center of learning and should remain so. Without critical thinking and problem-solving, new knowledge cannot be developed or applied, and learning remains static and prescribed. In today’s world, socio-political systems, cyber systems and environmental systems are changing so quickly, students must become knowledge builders and the constructors of real and relevant solutions at a rapid pace. Current text- driven courses that are fully prescribed and standardized will never be adequate in the changing face of global realities.
There have been various attempts at using global gaming to involve participants who would never otherwise be working together, coming from different countries and languages, to collaborate on global challenges. Participants from countries where poverty and famine are a daily reality, for example, have able to contribute effective ideas and solutions, while participants who have never really experienced either first-hand were able to learn from their peers in other parts of the world. This kind of global

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