Dear Education System, Please Implement Virtual Reality

Oculus Rift isn’t the first company to start creating virtual reality headsets. It goes way back into the past in the 19th century. To spare you the history lesson, many companies such as SEGA and Nintendo have tried to harness VR into their console lineup, but sadly technology was lacking and virtual reality remained a flop for several decades.

Nintendo’s Virtual Boy Headset from 1995. Failed due to the technological limitations of it’s time.

Luckily for me, being a student in a forward thinking institution like Ryerson University has it’s benefits. Deep within their state-of-the-art student learning centre lies a room full of today’s latest and greatest technologies. The DME Lab (Digital Media Experience) is Ryerson’s makerspace, fabrication lab and digital media production facility located in the 2nd floor of Ryerson’s Student Learning Centre.

They have all sorts of technology such as a 3d printers, augmented reality sandbox with real-time water flow simulation, and a virtual reality station. I knew I had to try their Virtual Reality station featuring the HTC Vive headset and remote. The computer was already turned on and everything was set up so I just needed to click and play. Myself and a few friends decided to try it out. It was intuitive, immersive, and definitely a memorable experience.

HTC Vive located at Ryerson’s DME Labs.

I had the chance to play a VR Shooting simulator where I had to pump a shotgun and shoot clay pigeons. I physically needed to work with my controllers and pump the shotgun each time I fired. The HTC Vive tracked my arms, my head movement, and my feet positioning. I was immersed with three factors in the game.

My friend, Ryan testing out the Virtual reality shooting simulator at Ryerson’s DME

Now, VR has only started to tackle the gaming industry but there hasn’t been much emphasis on other benefits with VR. The HTC Vive proved to me that we are technologically capable of shifting the way we can approach education, specifically hands on subjects. The technology is intuitive which enables students to focus more on the subject than the technology. The technology is immersive enough for the student to be inspired and curious to try something. Finally, the technology is memorable and a fun experience for students. We live in a digital age where there is too much information readily accessible. We live in a digital age where fun is travelling and experiencing new things rather than relaxing at home. Virtual reality has the fun factor going for them. Implementing VR in a modern day education system will push the status quo beyond what was of the past.

Virtual Reality for education isn’t something new. It’s been around for ages. Going back to the history of VR, flight simulators were actually one of the earliest examples of virtual reality education being successful. They mimicked an airplane and taught pilots how to navigate an aircraft without actually being in one. It was safe, immersive, and educational. Would you rather learn through a flight simulator or sit in a classroom and have the textbook teach you how to operate an aircraft?

Pilot from the 19th century in one of the first Flight Simulators called, “Link Trainer” (patented 1931)

The education system works but its teaching method is outdated.

Let’s compare the education system from before and now.

Comparison picture of a classroom from the past and now.

Now lets about entertainment from then and now.

Comparison picture of entertainment from before and now.

How Dubai from then and now?

Dubai from decades ago compared to Dubai in the present time.

While the rest of the world is progressing, the North American education system remains stagnant.

Everybody learns in their own ways but the education system teaches students mainly through textbooks and chalkboard/powerpoint lessons. This method teaches a student the subject but in a very non-engaging manner. This has a negative affect on students with little motivation for a subject. With younger students, it is crucial to inspire passion at a young age. VR could help make school lectures less boring and inspire more students to do research of their own on the subject. VR is able to give the students a chance to teach themselves and learn through experimentation.

Now some of you are probably thinking, “well, an HTC Vive is ~$1000 and that’s only one headset. It would be too expensive to implement VR into a classroom full of students.”

Introducing…Google Cardboard!

Image of Google Cardboard VR headset

Google had this out for a couple years now. It’s extremely affordable due to it’s materials being cardboard and two ocular lenses. It is cardboard folded into the shape of a headset with two ocular lenses. You place a phone into the headset and you got VR! The technology is limited to the phone’s processor speed but there are still enough power to have a simulation for an educational purpose.

Here’s a great TEDx video on Virtual Reality being implemented in education by Alex Faaborg. If you’re inspired by what I’ve wrote so far, this will be the icing on the cake.

Here’s another video on our education system that’s inspired me to write this.

With Google so readily available in a digital information age, a teacher’s duty shouldn’t just be teaching them a subject, it should be to inspire their passion for the subject. VR is affordable, intuitive and most importantly fun. Virtual reality would benefit the education system greatly for students.

P.S. There are a handful of teachers in our lives that constantly focus on finding new ways to making their classes more engaging. We love you and we salute you.

References:
http://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/history.html
https://library.ryerson.ca/dmelab/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9JXtTj0mzE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dqTTojTija8
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DQMA5NNhN58