In Educational Technology

Learning from experience. That age-old teaching adage is taking on new meaning in today’s classrooms thanks to Virtual Reality (VR) and 360-degree video. Here are three reasons why educational publishers need to add VR and 360-degree video to their curriculum offerings.

1) VR Demand Is Growing Beyond Games

Innovations like Oculus Rift and Samsung Gear have made VR technology consumer-ready. At the same time, support from companies like Google and Facebook have primed VR to move beyond games into other aspects of everyday life. Google Expeditions is a prime example of the education-related VR content starting to emerge. Since launching in the fall of 2015, Google Expeditions has sent over one million students in 11 countries on “virtual reality field trips.” This shift in VR use is also backed up by a 2016 VR Consumer Adoption Survey, which reported that 63% of respondents expressed interest in VR for education.

VR was also a hot topic at this year’s International Society for Technology in Education conference. Two thirds of millennial teachers said they were eager to bring this technology into their classrooms, and that they thought it would help children better engage with their course material.

2) VR Is a Unique and Powerful Learning Opportunity

“VR enables students to explore science, social studies, history—you name it—in unique and interesting ways. The technology also lets them control their own learning environments,” said Mark Rochon, Brella’s Content Department Manager. “When students can engage with a subject in such an experiential way, the things they are learning and doing have a more lasting impact.”

To showcase some of VR’s educational potential, Brella developed a short, 360-degree video in cooperation with the Baha’i Temple. For those unfamiliar, the Baha’i Temple is an architectural gem nestled in the suburbs just north of Chicago. We wanted to give viewers the experience of being transported to the grounds of this amazing building, while at the same time share tidbits of the fascinating story behind the building’s construction. Take a look at the video above and you’ll see how we’ve integrated early sketches and photos within the 360-degree views of the building’s exterior and interior to create a field trip-style look at one of Illinois’ Seven Wonders.

This idea of an educational field trip is one of the most popular approaches that content producers are using with VR to educate students. For example, National Geographic recently released the VR video, Through the Ages: President Obama Celebrates America’s National Parks. In this VR video, the typical video tour is enhanced with a new level of immersion as students are free to explore and experience the wonders of Yosemite Park firsthand.

VR content is also beginning to carve out a space in the hard sciences—biology, astronomy, anatomy—allowing students to interact with true-to-life projections of their learning objectives in a self-directed way. In fact, Case Western Reserve University in Ohio recently replaced its entire cadaver lab with a virtual reality setup using Microsoft HoloLens headsets.

3) VR Is Ready for Classroom Integration

There are multiple ways to inexpensively integrate VR into a classroom. Educators can use headsets like Google Cardboard, Sony PlayStation VR, and the Mattel Viewfinder for an immersive VR experience. They can also watch 360-degree videos on sites like YouTube using the tablets and laptops already in the classroom. While 360-degree video doesn’t offer students a fully immersive experience, this video format still has the special power to transport and draw students deeper into a lesson. Simply giving students the ability to explore, zoom in, and turn around in an environment can stimulate student curiosity and nurture their critical thinking skills. In fact, VR and 360-degree content is already being used this way by art history teachers to supplement their textbooks and projections.

VR Needs More Educational Content

VR is ready for its place in the modern classroom. But there is a huge challenge facing educational uses of VR. According to new research by Samsung, 85% of teachers surveyed agreed that VR would have a positive effect on their students, while only 2% are currently using it.

If there is a strong interest in educational uses of VR from teachers and there are affordable VR gear options for classrooms, then why the disparity? We believe this disconnect between demand and usage speaks to a lack of educational VR content and, more importantly, to educational publishers’ next big opportunity. Now the only question that remains is: Are educational publishers prepared to start developing VR content?

Looking to integrate VR or 360-degree video with your educational content? Drop Brella a line. We’re ready to build the future of learning with you.