Virtual Reality learning

With a steady increase in popularity, immersive learning could be changing the way we teach and learn.

Immersive learning techniques are defined as digital, or virtual, learning environments created using technology and software. They help to improve the delivery of lessons, and ‘immerse’ a student in to an experience.

The use of this technology in schools is said to provide a heightened level of interaction that better grabs the attention of the learners, therefore improving the retention of information. Students are also better able to form an emotional connection with the learning experience because of the realistic and engaging nature of the environment. It is technological innovations, such as virtual reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) which are making immersive learning accessible to schools.

Virtual Reality is going to be the future of immersive learning in our schools; it is already helping students add context and relevance to their learning. For example, schools are using VR to add dimensions to lessons through the exploration of historical sites, such as Machu Picchu, or being able to travel through the human body to explore the digestive system. Schools can even go on virtual field trips to visit coral reefs, and the Amazon rainforest.

On a recent survey cited by Google at BETT, it was found that 97% of teachers believe that Virtual Reality leads to more engaged students, 66% of teachers believe that it makes subjects more real and relatable, but only 23% of teachers had experienced the use of Virtual Reality in the classroom. This is a surprisingly low number, considering that Google Expeditions is a free app available from Google for Education. Google Expeditions allows a teacher to take their students on a guided trip using a tablet, and smartphone with viewfinders. There are now more than 700 Expeditions to choose from in a number of subject areas, such as the Great Wall of China, a Victorian printing factory, or exploring the oceans.

While the purchase of Virtual Reality headsets may be out of reach for some schools, there are organisations, like Your Cloud Works, who offer Virtual Reality rentals at affordable pricing, making this technology accessible to most students across the country.

Over 100 schools have experienced VR with Your Cloud Works and some of the most interesting feedback comes back to the ability of students to recall the information from those lessons.“The teachers found it really interesting and loved how much the children then remembered.” Sarah Abrey (Stapleford Community Primary School). “Both the teachers and pupils loved using it! It especially helped as my school has high levels of deprivation and it offered pupils a chance to experience they wouldn’t normally get a chance to! They were robust enough to survive the whole school using them and really helped as a learning tool for our SEN pupils as well as a reward for our behaviour.” Jason Pew (Fernhurst Junior School).

Since the launch of Google Expeditions in 2015, the Google for Education team have been working in the background to expand the capabilities of the app, and recently announced that schools will be able to create their own Google Expeditions virtual reality experience. Schools who are part of the beta programme will create their own immersive virtual experiences with a 360-degree camera and the Google Expeditions app. Users can upload the photos to the app and add annotations, other features include the ability to use 2-dimensional images and videos to the experience.

Further expansion of Google for Education’s immersive learning solutions, also includes the launch of Expeditions AR, their Augmented Reality app for schools.According to Google, “Expeditions AR uses Google’s AR technology to map the physical classroom and placed 3D objects. Students can walk all around the objects, get in close to spot details, and step back to see the full picture”. The app requires a smartphone on a selfie stick, which allows students to move the device and explore the object. For example students will be able to see a tornado from every angle or explore the spiraling DNA strand in a gene that is floating in their classroom.

Expeditions AR will be launched in the USA later in the year, and the launch of a UK pioneer programme is yet to be released. However, Your Cloud Works, a Google for Education Partner, will be bring Expedition AR experiences to schools in the UK with the beta app as soon as this spring. Keep in touch with ‘Your Cloud Works’ on Facebook and Twitter for more information as soon as it is available.

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