Best Practices with Virtual Reality

This is the first blog in a three blog Series on Utilizing Best Practices With Virtual Realty.

Best Practices Virtual Reality
Students who experience a first-hand experience using Virtual Reality receive the best learning environment. When teachers use the best practices, it amplifies it for the class.

Research now emphasizing the importance of student-centered activities, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).

Teachers will make students excited to learn more about STEM by finding engaging and impactful lessons and activities.  One way is to integrate new technologies such as Virtual Reality (VR).

Thankfully, VR is now affordable for schools to purchase and use in classes. In this three series blog, it will provide insight into three of the affordable VR devices, the Oculus, the Oculus Rift, and Google Carboard. 

These blogs also present readers with the background to VR, while identifying best practices when integrating VR.  It will also assist educators in locating several VR resources that educators can use for their classes.

Introduction

Innovations in technology over the past decade continue to make the future of work easier for employees (Nguyen, 2018). This revolution has created an exponential learning curve for both students and educators;

however, the hardware and software on the market can quickly overload anyone while generating uncertainty around how to implement it into the classroom. Take, for example, the growth of virtual reality and augmented reality.

Many people would think these words mean the same, but in actuality, they have two meanings and applications:

VR means that a user enters in an artificially created scenario where the users are transposed into another place where they use equipment like a Playstation VR, Apple, Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard.

The user sees and interacts with objects in the scenario. Some VR programs can cause users to feel movement, such as climbing a staircase. As the user looks around, the environment changes, giving them a 360-degree sensation.

Industries like the aviation, medical, and military have implemented VR into their training, where it is decreasing the time needed to gain new skills.

Augmented Reality (AR) provides the user with a situation embedded in a real-life visual. AR continues to evolve and can be seen on our phones, laptops, and tablets by using clear visors that add elements on top of what a user is viewing. That element remains stationary and is there for a specific purpose.

Some examples of people may remember the Pokemon GO craze that took place years ago.  In this AR example, people across the world were trying to catch monsters like the electric mouse, Pikachu. Players would use the app on their phones and walk around places like a park to catch the characters.

That’s the enthusiasm educators want to use to help transform learning.

Reasons to consider Integrating Virtual Reality

Businessmen and women know this new technology is vital to workforce development and employee efficiency.   Teachers who understand the importance of change also recognize the potential it will do for their students.  But let’s take a moment and consider why should educators tap into VR.

Barnard (2019) describes a few reasons to use VR:
  • Saves time– Students will save an inordinate amount of time as the simulations allow them to practice scenarios by increasing their efficiency.
  • Safe – They will not hurt themselves or others should a trainee makes a mistake.
  • Provides invaluable experiences – Teachers and students can identify specific areas identified as weaknesses and load scenarios that will improve their performance.
  • A higher level of interest – Those who experience VR sessions receives a higher level of activity as it engages the user. In traditional professional development sessions, training fails to stimulate involvement as the workshops hinge on slide shows causing a slow death by lecture and force-fed model.
  • Builds additional skill sets – Today’s companies require employees to have ever-changing skillsets as the techniques, products, and technologies evolve. Using VR adds a new level of comfort to the user while building confidence.
  • Low distractibility – Students cannot focus on possible distractions Since headsets are required.

Understanding the many reasons now makes it easier for teachers to consider factors when implementing VR.

Factors to consider when using VR Best practices

When schools give serious consideration at purchasing state-of-the-art technology, many factors must be a part of the decision.  Questions like the ones listed here bring a meaningful discussion in the decision-making process.

What can VR cover in the curriculum?

Specifically, what experiences can be created or already purchased that center on the identified weaknesses taught in the curriculum.

What comes with the VR package when it’s purchased?
  • Packages can come in two main aspects:
    • Premade, which gives canned scenarios for all users.
    • Specific work-based experiences, Where they are created from standards or abilities.
What are the hardest points in the curriculum?

Curriculum supervisors and expert teachers should collaborate with

companies who develop the algorithms and provide them feedback on well-known gaps in a student’s skills.  Data from assessments will help to pinpoint specific areas.

How will students receive feedback when using VR best practices?

Although this may sound like a common-sense question, many do not consider this question when deciding what VR package is best for them. For example, can the scenarios be recorded where they can see the experience for themselves? Providing effective feedback, whether it is a test or other assessment, is essential to someone understanding and mastering the information.

Take, for example, someone who trains to become a firefighter. The first responder candidate goes through a residence and extinguishes the blaze while their evaluator can replay the entire event. As the final marks increased, the instructors can be sat down with the candidate to tell them what they did right or wrong.

How many scenarios are provided?

Cost plays a role in this decision besides the details of every scenario; however, some parts of a scenario can be replicated, which can increase the number of situations created. For example, someone opening a door can be reproduced into many other situations once it is created. It is always best to sit down and have those conversations early and often.

How does one measure success for overall performance?

With qualitative and quantitative data. From the pre and post interviews to the actual timing of someone running through the scenario, success can be measured.

Once it is determined, the decision will be discussed about the future to find additional funds. Remember, what gets measured gets done!

Are the school personnel who make the purchase-able to create scenarios later?

This is an important question that needs to ask! When a vendor develops their customer’ scenarios, they must consider that premade scenes can cut down on costs, and time should more scenarios need to be developed later. It would behoove the school or company to ask for training and accessibility that would enable them to build additional scenarios when the contract expires.

Is a warranty needed?

It is highly recommended that customers get an extended warranty for the equipment. Learn more about the extended warranty of a product before they consider purchasing it (OculusRift (n.d)).

Next Steps For Understanding VR best practices

There are so many invaluable opportunities for schools, training centers, and companies. should the leadership invest the time and resources to improve teaching and learning.

If they want to be on the cutting edge of optimizing teaching and learning. They must provide their staff with the most advanced training tools available. Using VR is one way that will help transform learning. In the next blog, we will cover the best practices recommended and identify some of the affordable VR headsets that educators can utilize in their classrooms.

If you’re interested in reading more of my blogs, be sure to check them out here.

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