Education has always benefited from activities and experiences outside of a classroom’s four corners. As useful as books and visual aids are, nothing will beat a good field trip to a museum or a historic site when it comes to teaching kids lessons that will resonate on a more personal level.
The challenge present is that field trips are not always feasible. There’s the ever present issue of costs – transportation is an expense, added to any expenses associated with the places they will visit and even costs on the end of the kids’ parents. There’s also the logistics and safety issue, as the school and teachers will always be liable for the safety of the kids and taking them outside of the school premises will remove many of the controls they have over the environment. Older students may be easier to manage, but it field trips still carry the same challenges with regard to cost and logistics.
A Solution: Virtual Reality
Now that VR technology has improved by leaps and bounds, and has dropped down in price to levels that are within the mainstream market’s capabilities, Virtual Reality field trips can be a solution to both the financial and logistics problems.
Firstly, once the cost of hardware has been factored in – whether it’s a dozen VR headsets or a full blown VR room – everything else is free. Even the software to be used can be free, as exemplified by Google’s expansion of their Expeditions Pioneer Program (a virtual reality field trip program for their Cardboard VR viewer.) Given the right kind of software, students can visit a museum in Italy, or a virtual amazon rainforest, or even a space station. All without spending a single cent.
Next is the logistics – there’s no transportation involved. A VR can take you anywhere and any time, and there would be no safety issues as students will still be physically present in the school grounds.
Another benefit of VR Technology is it will add a whole new level of interactivity to the process. As much as a student can learn from verbal and written lessons, or even from watching exhibits, there are valuable experiences and knowledge that can be had from first-hand interaction with things, and only Virtual Reality can fully realize this with no exceptions. A student might not be able to interact and study a pride of lions up close in real life (at least not without years of training and travel to a different location), but a VR system makes this possible. Anything can be rendered through VR and interacted with, giving it a huge amount of advantage for teaching and training purposes.
The True Value of VR for Education: Empathic Teaching
According to Google, one of their goals for launching VR college tours is to help give students better accessibility to things that they would not otherwise have access to. And that the value of VR as a teaching tool is that it is a really powerful empathy teaching aid, where its lessons go far beyond history lessons – with proper application, VR can be used to make students feel more engaged with experiences and issues that can be difficult to grasp when only studying as a detached observer. With VR, they can see and hear important lessons as first party participants.