The advancement of technology has resulted in the improvement of the current education system. Institutions are able to offer diverse learning modes and platforms including open and distance learning which have encouraged learning. The virtual reality technology has been proposed over the years to be a critical component of education, and is expected to offer learning support through various means. A key element of the virtual reality that stimulates learning is the virtual world which is an imaginary environment in which imaginary objects can be created. One of the unique potentials of the technology is to offer students the opportunity to visualize abstract concepts, visit and interact in different environments at carrying time and distance, and observe the planetary scales. Such benefits enhances education thinking among students which aid in the mastering, generalizing, and retaining of knew knowledge. This paper, therefore, analyses the various benefits of virtual reality in education and its impacts on students learning experience.
A key educational benefit of virtual reality is the fact that its offer a new educational tool that provides a new way of reaching out to many students. According to Hussein and Nätterdal, the main goal of virtual reality is to motivate, enhance, and stimulate students to learn more new events and allow them to experience first-hand learning (5). In a technical education setting, the learning process aids in the persuasion of students to learn more about a concept or subject. In engineering, for instance, the learning system allows students to practically engage in experiments in virtual chemical plants, learn about their effectiveness and the emerging technologies (Youngblut 14). With such a practical experience, students will always be willing to engage in various subjects including technical ones since the practicality of the subjects are enhanced.
In the surgical education field, the use of virtual reality has always enhanced success of procedures. Surgeons are able to use the technology to improve their competence levels before they engage in actual procedures such as operation of patients (Youngblut 15). Many medical schools have shown great interest in the use of 3D applications, especially in the study of human anatomy. One study was conducted to investigate the correlation between 3D models and learning processes of human anatomy (Youngblut 15). The results had revealed that the integration of such models in the learning processes resulted in a positive experience among the medical students. As such, considering virtual reality in medical settings is essential since it can enhance the learning process, and as a result reduce the impact of accidents and wrong medical procedures, thus, improving healthcare quality.
Through virtual reality, engineering education has become a field that attracts many students who find it easier to solve diverse technical problems. Virtual reality technology helps students to apply theoretical knowledge in the engineering field in solving reality problems (Fowler 413). Within the virtual environment, students can create a 3D model using Autodesk Showcase software to create actual models; this encourages creativity and assessment of value of their solutions (Hussein and Nätterdal 8). A virtual physical lab had been modeled in 1993 to allow students perform virtual experiments. It was developed through the Solid System Developer of NASA. The lab measured the lengths and periods of pendulum in regards to varying magnitudes of gravity. Hand gestures were registered by use of helmet-counted display and special gloves. In a 1996 study carried out at Slaton High School to measure the impact of virtual reality on the performance of students in physical sciences. The performance was measured before and after virtual reality technology was introduced. After a comparison of grades, it was clear that over 85% of the students increased their overall grade with majority improving with over 20% within a semester.
The utilization of virtual reality such as the HITL has been linked to increased educational effectiveness among students who have special needs. An informal study that included the Seattle Public Schools investigated whether virtual world can help students who are “at risk” learn concepts of HIV/AIDS including causes, prevention, and avoidance of stigmatization (Youngblut 17). During the investigation, after students were informed about the virtual reality software and instructions on AIDS, they were expected to come up with a virtual reality game regarding the disease. After developing various game concepts, different student groups were made to develop objects; the knowledge developed was utilized in creating real games that the students could participate in (Youngblut 18). As such, it was revealed that virtual reality enhances learning and brings focus to critical issues like HIV/AIDS without stigmatization. There was substantial improvement in the students’ self-esteem.
The use of virtual reality can also help reduce risks of exposure to hazardous chemicals and materials in the learning process. According to Hussein and Nätterdal, virtual reality is able to create a learning environment in which teachers can circumvent the safety, physical, and cost constraints limiting the actual school environment (10). For instance, it is never possible to let students of chemical engineering do practical assignments in an operating chemical production plant. As such the virtual reality technology can allow such students to conduct these experiments in a virtual environment. Thus, the technology facilitates learning and improves understanding among students studying technical subjects (Fowler 414). In addition, the virtual environments create the notion of situated learning in which students learn and apply the gained knowledge.
In summary, virtual reality is a significant concept in the education realm. The technology has been adopted over the years as a result of increased innovations and diversity in e-learning. One of the identified uses of virtual reality is the creation of a modeled learning environment that promotes understanding. The system, due to its practicality, allows many students to gain interest in learning more technical subjects that had been considered difficult in the past. The study also reveals that virtual reality is an avenue through which physical sciences can be learnt without students running risks or increased costs. This is as a result of the virtual objects that do not result in the exposure to real dangers such as chemicals and hazardous objects.
Hussein, Mustafa, and Carl Nätterdal. “The Benefits of Virtual Reality in Education-A comparison Study.” (2015).
Youngblut, Christine. Educational Uses of Virtual Reality Technology. No. IDA-D-2128. INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE ANALYSES ALEXANDRIA VA, 1998.
Fowler, Chris. “Virtual reality and learning: Where is the pedagogy?.” British journal of educational technology 46.2 (2015): 412-422.