Designing a Future for Classroom VR

Quinn English ’18

In a 2010 paper, virtual reality researcher Veronica S. Pantelidis establishes a model for determining when to use virtual reality in educational settings.  The ten step protocol begins with defining course objectives, moves through production guidelines and culminates with testing of the virtual environment and design iteration.

Pantelidis also discusses the current state of VR for education, addressing its history and possible benefits.  Use of VR in educational settings can be traced back as far as the 1960s to flight simulation programs, but its mainstream use in educational settings originated with the advent of the microcomputer in 1977. Pantelidis notes that the majority of teachers would use VR if it were affordable and easy to use. Students often cite that VR makes them more motivated to learn and often makes learning easier.

This paper points to a study on how VR facilitates learning by providing a tight coupling of symbolic and experiential information. For example, VR can take conceptual information like a theory in physics and allow students to test and see the theory in action. As VR becomes more affordable and easy to use we can expect to see its usage in classrooms skyrocket.  Pantelidis’ guidelines for designing educational experiences aim to ensure that the future of classroom VR is bright.

Pantelidis highlights some special cases for which VR is particularly helpful – the most notable of which include when assisting the disabled in learning actions otherwise physically impossible to perform, when performing an experiment in “real-life” is potentially dangerous, and when mistakes made by those learning a concept would be potentially physically or emotionally harmful to them. Finally, Pantelidis warns against using virtual reality in cases where it would be too expensive or if it could potentially lead to literalization (confusing virtual environment with reality).

Our work on the Gaspee VR experience will observe Pantelidis’ model for developing an educational VR experience.  We began by identifying learning objectives for teaching high schoolers about the Gaspee Affair.  After production, we will test and gather feedback on the experience in order to best deliver the benefits of educational VR to students.

Source: Reasons to Use Virtual Reality in Education and Training Courses and a Model to Determine When to Use Virtual Reality