Educators and developers seem to be increasingly frustrated with Oculus, before you plunge into VR in your classrooms there are several issues and concerns you may want to hear out.
The following article was written by an anonymous source. The author wants the issues to be discussed but for various reasons does not want to be identified. So, as the editor, I added a preamble to this article to say that I too have had the same issues and hope that other educators may get to hear some of the big challenges left before jumping in in a big way.
I (Eric Hawkinson, Research Coordinator of MAVR) writing this preface happen to openly agree with much of what the author has written, and welcome the immersive education community to amplify these and similar concerns to Oculus/HTC and other hardware manufacturers. We are not alone in these concerns, with the VR Learning Lab in NZ writing similar ideas in an article, “Why we don’t recommend Oculus Go for schools”. For me most of the issues are related to why iPads are losing out to Chromebooks — and that is the ability to turn these devices away from single consumer facing business models. We are looking forward to your opinions on these and more issues with VR/AR hardware in schools. One big issue is that the walls around the garden are a bit too high.
One recent bit of news that exemplifies this is the fact that Oculus is forcing the application ‘Virtual Desktop’ to remove the ability to stream SteamVR games and content to the Oculus Quest.
This was a development that many in the edtech community were excited about, as it would allow for increased flexibility in use, increase the content available by many times over, and serve as a better tool for development/testing. There also have been a lot of rumblings in the VR community about not having enough rigor and transparency in there app approval process. Some good apps being ported from SteamVR and PSVR have been rejected and the developers are upset that they give no reason or recourse, this is bad for them as they badly need developers to make good content if they want their walled garden to be worth entering.
We have many developers in the MAVR community and they would like not to damage their relationship with the platform, but at the same time are frustrated with developing for educational purposes. I hope that Oculus will take note of the issues raised by this following anonymous author.
Eric Hawkinson (MAVR)
— — End of preface
Anonymous Editorial — 14 Issues I Cannot Get Around
I love the Oculus Go. Let me just put that out there first. It has a very good price-point, is a solid, comfortable device and has a number of great things going for it, which include very good sound quality, good lens’ and screen quality and a very easy-to-use controller. There is so much that I like about this device and I think it is a terrific consumer device, but unfortunately, my experience has been extremely disappointing on the educational front. Let’s see where it goes off the rails.
1. Social media on the VR needs to be taken off. I have been told directly by school districts that, “If Facebook is on there, it is an automatic NO.” There is no way to get around this social media presence on the Go.
2. The setup process (requiring a phone) is not really workable when talking about multiple headsets (anything beyond 2–3) which need to get into schools. 5 is hard, 10 is when you want to pull your hair out, and 20 is a nightmare. I work with schools and districts, and the fact that a device needs to be paired with a phone in order to set it up for use is untenable. For one particular school, 48 headsets were set up on two phones. This was necessary, and will never be done again! The identifier for the headset has a number like this… 1KWPH808UA8647. This number shows on the phone’s Oculus App as a “connected headset.” When there are 24 such devices connected to an app, it is almost impossible to discern which headset is which. The strap of the headset does have a corresponding identifier printed on a plastic part, but it cannot be easily read (even with a magnifying glass).
The alternative is to pair each headset with a separate phone. Even if you had 48 phones lying around to use, it would still be a major issue.
3. How do you get the most important part, the content, onto the Go? This is a very big concern. You can go through the Go Store, but you will not find curriculum-aligned content readily available for all subjects, and all grades. This is falling into the same trap as everyone fell into with iPads and phones. They are closed systems, so you are essentially saying that all your content will come through Apple, or in this case, through Oculus (Facebook?). The content is the key, of course, and the headset is just a means of accessing that content. But many are rushing to the Oculus Go without considering this very important point.
To load external content, for example, you need to have the headset in Developer Mode, which requires a Developer Account (at the Oculus Go website you need to Create an Organization), and that is often not very workable with a school. If this is not a barrier, then you go back to #2 and you are facing all kinds of identifiers and the mess of trying to bulk load modules. The IT department (or that lone teacher) is going to hate you!
As a consumer product, all of the above makes sense and is perfectly acceptable.
4. Sometimes content just “appears.” More control over the headset is required to alleviate the concern of inappropriate content being displayed to students. This was a primary concern in the Middle East, where I have done some work.
5. A direct purchasing channel with education pricing. Right now, in Canada, for example, a school or reseller would need to go through Best Buy to get the headsets. This is handy for buying a couple of units, but not ideal for buying hundreds or thousands.
6. Eliminate the necessity to have to go through a tutorial on the controller. If setting up 48 headsets, it is time-consuming, unnecessary and ultimately frustrating to have to go through this procedure with each and every headset. Since it is not the student setting up the controller, this is an unneeded step.
7. Multiple headsets and controllers will find themselves all loaded into a box together at some point and by the very nature of school use, things get jumbled. There needs to be a way to easily identify which headset is paired with which controller. You can use stickers to identify the controller, however, a good number of these stickers come off. This is not a good system, and is just makeshift, for now. This is again made for 1 user, and not considering 25 users in the same locale.
8. When loading content onto multiple headsets (25), one needs to be able to easily select a subset of headsets for loading content while the rest are charging. The only thing you can do this on the Oculus app is to check the serial number on the headset (extremely small), and this is not possible to find when 25 are connected in a cart. Once again, until you use this in the field, you don’t consider such things as issues.
9. Voice commands can take over (this causes problems while using other content), and it doesn’t seem to be easily removed or stopped. This is the Voice ON feature, which can be seen on the screen (top right). It is impossible to proceed, so the headset needs to be shut down and restarted. This is not seemingly triggered by any particular action, but it is a consistent problem.
10. The headset straps are interchangeable, so serial numbers on the strap can easily be associated with the wrong headset if straps are mixed up. In schools, this kind of jumbling is commonplace. The straps are not secured to the unit so after multiple students have used these, they get dislodged more and more easily.
11. The battery is 2600 mA, which allows for a charge of about 2 hours. This does not need to be a show stopper, but the headset must constantly be put into the charging cart and because of the issue with respect to finding which headset is which (in the cart and simultaneously within the app) then this does become a much larger issue.
12. I have had complaints from administrators that the controller batteries need replacing very often. One administrator has said that “after 2 uses, I am changing batteries. Our school is running through a lot of batteries.” This is more about a disruption within the class, than of whether to use regular or rechargeable batteries.
13. When the controller is not connected with the device, but in the same vicinity, you are stuck. There is no way to shut down the device in this situation. If the controller is completely disconnected from the unit, you can use the Volume buttons and head movements to make a selection, such as Shut Down. But if the controller is not identified, but still working, there is no way to proceed. Again, this is a real-world problem when considering a large number of devices (15–30) deployed into classrooms.
14. A final issue to consider is storage space on the Go (or any VR device). When you consider what it is you wish to do with your VR device, a very typical answer I have gotten from firsthand discussions with teachers from China to India, and South Africa to North America is unsurprisingly the same…
I want to use curriculum-aligned, interactive content, if possible, for many of my subjects. I would love to add in teacher-created content and even Google Expeditions. And the ultimate would be to work toward student-created VR content which can be displayed on the devices we buy.
None of this is out of reach these days, so there is no reason to limit ourselves in expectations. But if these are your expectations, then device selection needs to be centered on these needs.
These issues have a lot to do with frustration more than anything else. An example at a school in Canada, the person in charge of this project said, “I love the content and I love the cart. If you could switch out the Oculus Go for some other device, my problems would be solved.”
I will say again that as a consumer product, I love the Oculus Go. I was personally investing heavily on the idea that the Go would be the best solution for education. However, extremely disappointing to me, this is one device which cannot fulfill the needs of schools, educators, admin, nor the students themselves. I would say that I have been one of the most motivated persons out there who desperately wants the Go to work in schools. But I cannot deny the issues I have laid out, and I will respond (albeit anonymously) to all concerns. It would be a great joy to me to be wrong on all fronts.
A final word on why I am sharing these points. Very recently I have seen a lot of messages in forums and on message boards that “our school got funding for 25 Oculus Go!” or “we are ordering 200 Go for our district” and other such notices. I just believe that people need to be aware of both sides of the issue and then make their own decisions based on that knowledge. I wish to add to this public databank of information, and I will assert that I neither work for Oculus Go, nor do I hope for their demise. It’s a terrific product, but it just is so tough to use for education.
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Site this article:
Hawkinson, E. (Ed.). (2019). Issues using Oculus VR in the Classroom. MAVR Newsleter, 3(2), 12–15. Retrieved from http://mavr.site