ClassVR in Education
ClassVR

This is the third blog post about one further education setting’s experience in implementing virtual reality in their programmes.

If you are only joining us on this journey, check out where the journey began and how it progressed in the previous posts. 

Post 1: Outlined the technology and initial reasons for choosing ClassVR

Post 2: Outlined the potential highlights and many challenges facing educators in implementing virtual reality

Post 3: Here we are!

Throughout this journey, I have remained aware of the time and cognitive energy (headspace) required by educators to embrace new technology. I have come to deem patience and perseverance almost as important as a supportive innovative-friendly culture. Implementing new technology into our teaching and learning programmes is hard work!

In the first post, we compared VR headsets and outlined our reasons for selecting ClassVR. Through sharing our journey and exploring the technology, a prominent reason has become more apparent and makes ClassVR stand out from the competition, namely, the ClassVR teacher interface. Let’s take a look: 

ClassVR – Educator Friendly Interface

Where to now?

We are currently exploring the creation of our own 360 images and video footage to use in the ClassVR interface. Our first resource is being designed with direct links to preexisting learning outcomes. To take the footage we are using a basic Ricoh Theta 360 camera. This can be controlled from a mobile device through a free downloadable app. We will be using ThingLink and CoSpaces to make our images/video interactive. 

Let’s reflect on the questions posed in the first couple of posts:

Have we made the right decision to put time and energy into incorporating virtual reality? 

The answer to this question is twofold. Have we witnessed high levels of engagement with the use of VR headsets – YES! Are the time and energy required to implement VR into our programmes manageable – potentially not! Realistically, we need more time to fully answer this question – developing resources for VR (developing new resources of any kind) takes time. Will this time pay off? It is simply too early to say.

In my opinion, one aspect remains quite clear; many of the current module descriptors and assessment techniques are unfortunately long overdue an update. Hence, at the very least, programmes could benefit from improved and more up-to-date methods of engagement. This journey has shown that VR is one possible way to increase engagement. Trialling virtual reality as an option in further education has been a challenge and a risk, but one we can continue to learn from. The potential is evident, however, the time and funding required to utilise this potential are also evident! 

Have we chosen the correct option to make this a success? 

YES! This is more clear-cut, as evident in the video above, ClassVR is versatile, safe, intuitive, and its drag-and-drop interface make it useable for educators. There is a wide range of resources to choose from. The potential to create one’s resources is very valuable. We would like to explore the support offered by ClassVR more. We would also like to explore letting students learn the basics of coding through the motivational VR experience.

Secondary School: Many educators who have been involved in this journey have commented on how valuable the current ClassVR resources would be (straight off the shelf) for secondary school science.

Will the challenges overcome us?

Possibly. Possibly not! Time and funding remain huge issues. One overarching question I posed in the first blog post was whether or not the lack of implementation of VR in Irish classrooms comes down to a lack of funding. I am wondering if it lies more in the allocation of funding – are we spending so much time and energy maintaining our old systems that there simply isn’t time, money or energy left to implement change? I commend the funding avenues under the theme of innovation that made this project possible. Perhaps, to realise the potential of ClassVR in our education system – more collaborative practices are required? Resources could be developed collaboratively and shared across settings/sectors/levels. ClassVR have many useful resources but these need to adapted and aligned to our current Irish programmes. Educators in this setting are going to endeavour to create resources that align and incorporate projects that involve learners creating their own virtual reality environments.

Conclusion

It has been recorded time and time again that the skills required for future employment include creativity, critical thinking and problem-solving. 

Take a moment and imagine finding your way out of a virtual reality escape room scenario with your peers! 

Does this sound like education to you? 

Does it sound like an engaging experience? 

Does it sound like something that has the potential to increase collaboration, critical thinking and problem-solving skills? 

The big question is, does it sound like it will meet the criteria on a pre-set knowledge-based assessment task? 

Educators are tasked with answering yes to all of these questions – be innovative, engaging, meet the diverse needs of learners, increase transversal skills and most importantly, ensure knowledge-based assessments are passed (ideally with high grades). An old but seemingly still relevant article in the Irish Times springs to mind, take a moment to scan through it. 

Overall, the challenges outlined in previous posts remain, but so does the potential for increased engagement! What are we doing at any level of education if we are not aiming to, in the first instance, engage our students? As we continue to navigate the changing purpose and needs of our education system, virtual reality is one small snippet of the changing landscape. Collaborative practices are needed to face the challenges of educational change!

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