ARTICLE BY COLIN MCMAHON
It is no secret that technology moves faster than education. Sadly, it is also known that technology implementation within the education field can be sloppy and incomplete. To the untrained mind, a tablet is simply fancy book and paper. Virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR) offer an even greater evolution for the educational market, should proper training - and adequate funding - be present.
Common understanding is that there are seven learning styles. These are visual (learning with images), aural (learning through sound/music), verbal (learning through spoken/written word), physical (using body, hands, touch), logical (use of reasoning), social (learn best in groups), and solitary (learn best alone).
Current education offers a solution for the majority of styles. The budget sets many limitations. No public school can afford a field trip every day. This restricts visual learners to looking at pictures or watching movies and traps physical learners into their chairs. VR, AR, and MR shatter these restrictions.
VR is the farthest along. With nothing more than a smartphone - a gadget owned by the majority of the U.S. population - and cardboard, students can experience some form of VR. The budget and safety concerns of field trips are neutralized.
Nearpod and Lifeliqe are among the first companies into this space. Understanding how challenging - but vital - it is for teachers to master this technology, both companies are invested in providing tools for lesson plan creation. Both are also flexible, offering programs that, while enhanced by VR, can also function on tablets. While Nearpod focusing on the travel aspect of VR, Lifeliqe looks to redefine education within the sciences.
EON Experience's bold vision for the future.
On the higher end is Immersive VR Education. While most educational VR companies stick to mobile VR headsets, Immersive's Engage platform is designed to work with the Vive and Rift (in addition to the Samsung Gear). The flexibility has allowed programmers to create compelling content. Immersive VR Education made headlines with its Apollo 11 VR experience, which allowed users to experience a compelling slice of actual footage and computer-generated historical recreation.
Education in VR is still largely restricted to 360-degree video experiences, with limited-to-no interaction from the user. A deeper educational VR experience would likely find a much larger audience.
Those entering this space have a challenge. Investment capital in educational VR is nowhere near the levels it is for other verticals, such as gaming. The answer may lie in the blending of verticals. Gaming academics like Professor Ashley Brandin have long felt that certain gaming genres have educated better than 'edutainment' gaming.
Gamifying the educational process could likely break through the funding barrier, as well as attract outside interest to the educational VR market. Certain experiences, like Minority Media's Time Machine and Snail Games' Ark Park VR already toy with the educational genre. That said, Ark Park VR, in particular, is far more Jurassic Park than actual natural history - a pitfall that all developers in this space should be conscious of.
All forms of advanced reality - VR, AR, and MR - will come to education. It is simply a matter of how quickly they will make an impact. Developers should be conscious of two things: is their experience informative and, more importantly, is it compelling?