Virtually Learning...Or Not?

Howson, Oliver (2022). Virtually Learning...Or Not? In: EDULEARN22 Proceedings, 4-6 Jul 2022, Palma, Spain, pp. 8614–8620.



Virtual Reality (VR) is a growth area; with a worldwide market revenue of 3.89 billion US dollars in 2020 projected to rise to 12.19 bullions US dollars by 2024. In 2020, Education was projected to be the second most disrupted sector due to extended reality (XR). As long ago as 1990, Bricken described education in the virtual sphere and postulated that VR would be commonplace in 20 years.

Unfortunately, it took another 12 years on top of Bricken’s prediction of 2010 before we arrive at a stage where an estimated 6 million VR headsets are being sold in a year; whether this counts as commonplace is debateable, but certainly far more common than in 2010. But in education there are still huge gaps. In some areas of higher education, such as in the Askwith Kenner Global Languages and Cultures Room at Carnegie Mellon University, students complete learning modules entirely around and supported by VR and have the opportunity to borrow one of the hundreds of headsets owned by the University. Scholarly papers abound sharing the benefits of medical education in VR increasing confidence and maximising efficacy.

As education approaches the masses, however, things are not so bright. This paper explores the uses, or rather lack of uses, of VR in compulsory-aged education within the United Kingdom. Reporting on early data from a SERAS (Skills and education for Robotics and Autonomous Systems)-funded pilor study, opportunities are described, but critically the blocking factors are identified, discussed, and challenged. In the interests of always looking for light at the end of the tunnel, this paper also opens up some opportunities that educators can further explore for themselves.

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