Ashish Kumar is the Co-Founder and CEO of Metabook XR, an Edtech Company. He has done his MBA from Indian School of Business (ISB) and is passionate about education.
Every child learns differently, in his/her own unique way, at his/her own pace. Our current pedagogy is unified & non- interactive and as a result Students start to lose interest quickly. This loss of interest leads to other behavioral changes and students enter a vicious cycle where the learning becomes even more difficult. On the other hand, Child remains motivated for games and sports. The inherent structure of sports keeps them exciting whereas studies, unfortunately, has not been able to gain similar attraction. Let us understand the learning process and its evolution over time.
“Learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences1. In Ancient times, knowledge was imparted, to selected students, through literature and activities. It was a mix of theoretical and practical knowledge along with unique assessments. The fundamental goal was to have comprehensive learning and realizing one’s inner potential. As we progressed, education system evolved. Access to education was gradually extended to larger section of society. Purpose, Structure and Means of education also changed. As time progressed, students were expected to go through a mandated structured curriculum in a time-bound way and It was further integrated with a unified and rigorous assessment. Pedagogy adopted was more suitable to mass learning and a lot was left to the imagination of students. Curiosity was not entertained and gave their way to marks scored in the assessments, Students who performed well were rewarded and those who failed to perform were looked down upon.
With advent of technologies, lot of innovative pedagogical tools have been developed to overcome constraints of existing education system. Rise of Smart classrooms, Audio, Video content etc. were some of the welcome advancements. Lot of stakeholders tried to contribute with different products to bring value to the entire ecosystem. They bettered the experience; however, the fundamental problem remains unresolved. This is apparent from the fact that the students are still not excited or inclined towards education the way they are excited towards Sports or Games. Problems are getting aggravated due to the increase in access to huge pool of unstructured information through internet.
Some of the problems students face are listed below:
- Lack of Focus
- Low Attention Span
- Low Retention
- Monotonous Content
- Lack of Motivation
- Disconnect with Subject
- Time Management
It is important to create a learning experience that is intrinsically motivating. We need to borrow some of the elements from games and entertainment and carefully blend it with academic curriculum to impart knowledge in a way that remains attractive to students. Virtual Reality based education offers such pedagogical advantages.
What is Virtual Reality?
Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they are immersed in their surroundings2. User becomes part of this virtual world or is immersed within this environment and whilst there, is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions. Generally, the virtual environment is created by head-mounted standalone headsets -VR headsets.
How VR Works?
We know the world through our senses and perception systems. Humans have five fundamental senses- taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. Besides, we have additional senses such as Proprioception (It deals with how your brain understands where your body is in space and includes the sense of movement and position of our limbs and muscles), Sense of Balance etc. Our brain receives input from these senses and creates a mental map of the environment so that we have understanding about the real world. The more information it receives, the more developed is the mental map.
Similarly, if our senses are presented with a computer-generated virtual environment, our brain creates clear mental maps without having to experience real world situations. Technically, through Virtual reality a person is immersed in a three-dimensional, computer-generated environment which can be explored and interacted with. That person becomes part of this virtual world which strengthens the neural connections needed for learning and memory and the person is able to manipulate objects or perform a series of actions.
Virtual Reality, as a technology, solves three fundamental problems listed below:
- Experiential and In-Situ Learning
Imagine, taking a child to mining field for teaching extraction of metals, imagine taking them to Agriculture filed for them to witness various steps involved in Crop Production. These In – Situ Learning experiences really boost the engagement level of Students. Using VR, Students can conduct experiments in Chemistry without exposing themselves to hazardous chemicals. Many assignments are either expensive, impractical, or dangerous to carry out per se in reality. Through Virtual Reality it can easily be simulated similar to real life experience.
Many Biological and Mathematical concepts need deeper deliberation and different delivery mechanism for better clarity which is not possible with existing pedagogical techniques. With VR students can be shown the intricate details about concepts such as functioning of human body system at cellular level which otherwise is not possible
Use of 3D models, Virtual Environments, walkthrough capabilities, 360-degree vision enables Virtual Reality an extremely suitable technology to teach fundamental concepts. It promotes multi-sensory learning, which significantly increases engagement and retention levels of students.
Since the virtual environment created is the closest, we can get to reality and the subject is allowed to interact and maneuver through it, the reactions and learnings are real and retention is exceptionally high. VR also gives freedom to make mistakes which are otherwise way costlier in real life. Listed below are some of the benefits of Virtual Reality Based education:
- Experiential Learning: Lessons can be taught through in-situ experience by taking them to the site of action. Ex- they can experience real farm for learning methods of agriculture.
- Hazardous Experiments: Playing with chemicals is now easy. It can be taught in a controlled environment with all the possible simulations through VR without any handling hazard of the chemicals
- Immersive and Multisensory Learning: Students feel that they are part of the environment and are engrossed in the events happening. They learn through performing the activity which is not possible otherwise
- Personalized and Self-Paced learning: VR headsets are Standalone and head-mounted devices. Each student experiences the environment individually and can navigate through the content at their own pace. Distraction is significantly minimized
- Virtual Tours: Witnessing sites of educational importance is now easy. In VR, the famous places can be brought to the classroom with real life experiences
- Retention: Research has suggested that the retention of students has significantly improved of the lessons learned through VR.
- Fun: It sparks strong interest among students towards the subject and they feel deeply engaged. You learn more when you see and do.
- Empathy: A great number of students have never experienced war. Many haven’t lived in abject poverty or with little to no resources. Many have never experienced a devastating natural event. Putting major tragedies aside, many students simply have not had experience of exposure to different cultures, traditions, or belief systems. With the help of VR students can experience these situations
- Simulations: Multiple simulations are possible to understand the outcome of different interactions which otherwise is not possible in current pedagogical techniques.
Price Water Coopers (PwC) study finds that through VR, students learn 4 times faster than in the classroom. VR learners are 3.75 times more emotionally connected to the content than class room learners.
Benefits of using VR based education for Children with Special Needs has been highlighted by University of Ottawa, Canada and University of Pannonia, Hungary in their research paper- “Current uses of Virtual Reality for Children with Disabilities” and “Virtual Reality in Special Needs Early Education”. Individuals with special needs often face challenges with attention, language, spatial abilities, memory, higher reasoning, and knowledge acquisition. VR based education is providing variety of opportunities for the learner to have control over the learning process.
In this era, education system should strive to create a thinking mind which will only happen when children love what they are learning. The content should be highly engaging, and the learning process should be enjoyable. This will create a nurturing ground for students to question more, explore more, iterate more, experiment more, innovate more and build knowledge on top of what exists today. This will allow humanity to take a leap forward.
- Richard Gross, Psychology: The Science of Mind and Behaviour
- Ref: https://www.iberdrola.com/innovation/virtual-reality).
- Multiple sources- Internet