Virtual Reality (VR) might have initially been created for the gaming industry, but the technology presents a new era in education. It is already being used by some schools in the United States, so Hong Kong schools could also consider bringing this technology into the education system.
VR is a simulated environment created within a computer. Once you put the goggles on, you see this artificial landscape, and experience it as an alternate reality. It is a versatile technology that can be used in limitless ways, including in education.
The prospect of incorporating VR into education is exciting, as it could provide a better educational experience for many students and educators. It could have students more engaged in their lessons, and could be an additional tool available to teachers.
Young Post caught up with VR research specialist and psychology associate professor, Dr Li Li, from the University of Hong Kong, to talk about the ways VR could benefit education. First off, it’s economical.
“It is cost efficient,” says Li. “For chemistry experiments that require a certain sequence of actions, we can train students using VR first, to make sure that they master the sequence before allowing them to do real chemistry experiments.” She added that “for anything that requires students to have spatial imagination, VR demos will make the 3D relationship between objects easy to understand.”
But Li also pointed out that there were potential negative impacts of VR. “If the quality of the visual information is not good, or if there is a big delay that causes a conflict between the visual input and the body senses, the observer will have motion sickness,” she explains.
Teenagers, not surprisingly, are eager to have the new technology in their classrooms. One student from Renaissance College, who wants to remain anonymous, told us: “Most days I sit in class and listen to the teacher talking. Sometimes, everything they say goes in one ear and out the other. But I think with VR, I would be more interested.”
The VR industry agrees. Peter Yu, the CEO of JetOne Motion, a virtual reality company in Hong Kong, believes that virtual reality is the next step in the education sector. “It is going to be an instrumental tool in education,” says Yu. “There are many opportunities to develop school-specific applications that could be used in class. I wouldn’t say that it would be a replacement, but it would be a supplemental tool for teaching in class.”
And that tool is already available to many people.
“Some companies [in Hong Kong] are already deploying Google cardboard, which works with mobile phones. It can be used in class so students can see the content,” explains Yu. “That is fantastic, as studies show that the VR tool enhances the relationship between the teachers and students.”
Another reason, VR would be such a useful educational tool, is that there is no limit to the different things it could display, and allow users to experience. With more immersive lessons, a student’s learning experience could be significantly improved, allowing them to learn more effectively.
So how soon until VR is a normal part of class? “It won’t take that long,” Yu says, “as there are many companies in the US and Hong Kong that have developed content. Soon you will see a lot more applications that are specifically designed for schools. VR is here to stay.”