Integrating VR in education: How? Why?
Virtual Reality (VR) is one of many technologies that is gaining momentum in the educational world, especially with the advent of the pandemic. The inclusion of this technology in education will certainly change educational practices, whether in primary or higher education. But, how can VR be used in education in a practical way? Why use it? What are its limitations?
What’s VR ?
According to Rioux (2021), VR is the use of a VR headset that immerses the user in an immersive 3D environment. In the same sense, it can be defined according to the use of a VR headset that allows the user to see artificial objects on the headset screens (Mehta, 2021).
Dubois (2021) defines it rather as the use of software to create a virtual environment that allows the creation of artificial senses (touch, hearing and sight). For Fuchs (1996), VR causes the user to pull themselves out of physical reality and into a virtual world where time, place, and type of interaction are different (as cited in Meyran Martinez & Spanghero-Gaillard, 2021).
Lewis et al. (2021) encompass all of these definitions, “VR is immersive and allows a learner to use, among other things, an autonomous headset that interacts with a completely artificial computer-built world.”
How can VR be used in education?
Learning through the use of VR can be categorized in a variety of ways, from minimally immersive to fully immersive for learners (Rioux, 2021). The following are some examples of the use of VR in an educational setting.
Passive use of VR
According to Coutley and Lamy, RÉCIT counselors at the Centre de services scolaires de Laval, VR can be consumed passively (Rioux, 2021). The learner is immersed in an environment where they are observing, “witnessing something” (Rioux, 2021). For example, a learner could put themselves in the shoes of a homeless person, using VR (Herrera et al., 2018, as cited in Hayez et al., 2021). One could even use the VR Museum of Fine Art app to view artworks (Marr, 2021).
Immersive learning – Simulations, physical tasks, VR games
VR can be leveraged to create simulations of experiences that might be difficult to achieve in the real environment. One can think of simulations that allow a learner to travel to a particular country to learn a language (Enoc, 2021). The simulation allows for complete immersion for the learner as they can directly interact with people to learn a language of their choice (Marr, 2021).
One can also think of using VR to get learners to explore places that are real, but also impossible to physically visit. For example, VR allows learners to travel, whether in space or to historical sites (Hayez et al., 2021).
VR can also be used to practice repetitive physical tasks practice repetitive physical tasks in a fictional environment (Mehta, 2021). For example, medical students could performe a surgical procedure using VR as practice (Ahlberg et al., 2002, as cited in Hayez et al., 2021).
VR video games can also be used in education. When a learner plays a VR video game in a learning context, they have access to a multitude of benefits. Egea-Vivancos and Arias-Ferrer (2020), explain it this way:
“video games provide players with constant feedback and trial-and-error strategies, adapted to the user’s rhythm and skills, favoring interactivity and facilitating the correction of possible errors.”
Why VR in education?
The use of VR in education has several positive points in different educational spheres. The following are those reported in a number of writings.
• Using VR improves student achievement, engagement and motivation (Loureiro et al., 2021);
● It reduces “training costs in several fields of study […] which require significant investment” (Cook et al., 2019; Cooper et al., 2019; Pelas et al., 2019; Ucar et al. ., 2017, as cited in Hayez et al., 2021);
• It provides access to content that is difficult to access in order to deepen knowledge (Mehta, 2021);
• It makes it easier to establish new relationships and provides a valuable communication experience for learners (Dubois, 2021);
• It allows learners to have learning experiences in a safe context (Mehta, 2021);
• It can be integrated into a variety of instructional methods, depending on the school context (Belkadi, 2021). Indeed, according to Allcoat et al. (2021), VR can be adapted to teachers’ planned courses, whether in class or at a distance.
While VR in education presents innovative opportunities, it must be kept in mind that it also has limitations :
• the high price to have access to the technology and the integration of this technology into the environment (Dubois, 2021);
• lack of social acceptability (Lewis et al., 2021, Tham, McGrath, Duin and Moses, 2018);
• ethical and data-related issues (Lewis et al., 2021, Cooper et al., 2019; Jensen and Konradsen, 2018; Kenwright, 2018);
• discomfort (nausea, motion sickness) caused by the use of the VR headset (Devon et al., 2021);
• the lack of comprehensive studies on the learning and retention of concrete knowledge, related to the use of VR in a learning context (Herbert et al., 2018; Lanier et al., 2019; Makransky et al., 2019, as cited in Lewis et al., 2021). With all the possibilities and benefits of using VR in an educational context, it is imperative to consider the limitations it presents, to avoid causing harm to student learning. With this in mind, it is necessary for teachers and professors to be aware of these possibilities and limitations, and to keep in mind their pedagogical goals before making use of it (Hayez et al., 2021).