Virtual reality in education

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Virtual reality in education: a hyper, undocumented trend VR is advertised as a great learning tool. Documentation is minimal.

Travel to Earth’s core. Close up with a dinosaur Go to Mars as an astronaut. View a gut’s bacterial flora.

Virtual Reality has endless potential (VR). The technology is straightforward to use: Just put your smartphone in VR glasses. When you watch videos through the glasses, you feel like you’re in the movies’ virtual environments.

Pseudoscience
But schools risk wasting money if they buy VR spectacles to boost instruction. There’s no proof that the new technology is as groundbreaking as the sellers say. VR glasses teach pupils in classrooms. Are VR glasses an educational tool or for fun? Image: Shutterstock

“Companies that develop VR technology typically point to research when marketing the goods for educational use, but it’s pseudoscience,” says Lasse Jensen, a Ph.D. student at the Center for Online and Blended Learning and the Department of Public Health Science at the University of Copenhagen.

Money for VR research
The Ministry of Education and Research (In Denmark) has donated 20 million DKK to study virtual learning. The money went to Roskilde University, which will lead a project to develop virtual learning tools and map out how to use them in future teaching.

“For example, they can write about amazing VR trials at a school, but they don’t disclose that it’s never been measured whether pupils learn anything from it. In actuality, there are few published studies, and most are unfavorable,’ he adds.

User testing not science
Lasse Jensen has reviewed all the research on VR glasses in education to discover proof that they can be useful.

In general, evidence that VR is an effective learning tool is weak, finds Lasse Jensen in a journal article.

In Denmark and internationally, few research have studied how VR glasses can be used in a teaching context. Many are bad, says Lasse Jensen.

I’ve done 21 studies. 10 are user tests, not scientific investigations, argues Lasse Jensen.

In various studies, researchers asked students what they gain out of using VR in education. But they haven’t measured test subjects’ learning.

“You can usually get decent replies by asking test respondents, ‘What do you think?'” Clearly, those who undertake such tests aim to detect an effect. These investigations are often supported by a firm, or the researchers have developed a product. They want a good result,’ adds Lasse Jensen.

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Posted by Alex Vartmann
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