Page 35 - Campus Technology, June 2017
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collaboration must continue and become more mainstream in the near future. Similarly, if students have an opportunity to “experience” a virtually real context they otherwise would not, much could be learned. While we train and educate current students on specifics around their subject area and professional future, VR could provide ways in which collaboration and problem-solving could become a global norm — and new solutions could result more quickly. The potential for immediacy in learning, as well as relevancy and innovation, would be maximized.
Additionally, VR could allow design and creative art students to develop portfolios like never before. There are many new and innovative architects and designers who would be able to virtually “build” a design — use the same parameters and criteria, the same material and see the end result without spending vast amounts of money on a physical build. Having a VR “portfolio” would be of huge benefit for new and emerging designers to be able to virtually present the experience of the end product and, therefore, access funding and opportunities much faster.
It is important to realize that VR technology is not only an individual experience, but groups can experience the same reality — virtually and simultaneously. For example, I could be in a different physical location but access the same VR experience as others in my class or study group. This allows for group interaction and collaboration on projects and
responses. Therefore, as mediated learning environments have used internet and multi- and shared-media technology to mediate group learning, VR can also provide enriched shared learning through shared virtual reality experiences.
Current Challenges and Next Wave
The challenge with using VR in group educational environments such as school or college classrooms is the expense of the equipment (hardware and software) — which, although it could be a one-time purchase, still requires schools to provide budget dollars to set up the technology. As always, the more we can evaluate the benefits to learning, the more we can expect money to be made available. Also, instructional designs would need to integrate the use of the technology and adjust skill development value and response opportunities, so that students can be awarded for advanced skill development as well as content knowledge. Students should also be provided with relevant response opportunities beyond text-driven tests and exams. Student must be given an opportunity to provide VR-based responses through creative and applied ways, such as their own VR environment productions.
According to Brennan Wade, a VR curriculum designer for college-level academic programs, while current VR technology may be cost-prohibitive for school and college classrooms for the most part, the future wave of increased
augmented reality (AR) technology is evolving. Wade believes that AR provides customization to the VR experience that will increase in relevance to student learning. So, while VR allows the user to be “immersed in a totally different environment” or reality, Wade explained, “AR takes the user’s immediate environment and ‘adds’ to it.” For instance, if I have on my augmented reality spectacles and look up to the sky, a weather report will appear that tells me exactly what weather changes will occur and when. Or, if I have a favorite fictional character, that character can appear within a VR environment to augment it. Wade is convinced that while we are years away from VR replacing or even corresponding to the widespread use of iPads in classrooms, the advent and growing use of AR will overtake VR and be more cost- effective and user-focused for classroom use.
My sense is that as with most “new technology” that has integrated into our society, the more we use VR and AR, the more we will understand the potential benefits to learning and also the more accessible and useable the hardware/software and price will become. In various articles I have written for this and other journals over the years, I have consistently identified the importance of flexibility in instructional design as well the support of student authenticity in their own learning process. In a THE Journal article I wrote on podcasting in 2008, I suggested,4
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