The possibilities that Virtual Reality offers are being recognized in an increasing number of industries, not least in the field of education and training. Especially when it comes to learning, completely new possibilities are available by immersing the user in virtual worlds.
The most important element here is immersion. This is because it has been proven that the more intensively we perceive events or actions, the better we remember them.
A whole series of companies are revolutionizing the way we learn today by taking advantage of the highly immersive experience that VR worlds offer. Among other things, this saves enormous costs in the long run.
Why Is VR so Interesting for Learning?
That which makes Virtual Reality the ideal medium for learning is immersion. This describes the ability of a VR world to allow the user to immerse themselves completely in it. This way, the VR world appears like a real world to the user.
Although a distinction can be made between mental and physical immersion, the decisive factor for learning is that immersive VR worlds generate intensive experiences. These have to touch the participant on an emotional level and capture their full attention. These are the ideal conditions for learning! This is how VR is able to create long-lasting memories. Clay Bavor, Head of the VR department at Google’s parent company Alphabet, summarized it this way:
“Experience is the richest form of information.”
VR can create such experiences by immersion. These are similar to real life experiences, except you don’t have to travel abroad to learn a foreign language properly or visit the pyramids of Giza if you want to gaze at them in wonder. VR makes all this and more possible from the couch in your home.
Virtual Reality Learning as a Research Program
The possibilities that VR offers for learning are far from being exhausted. Despite all the progress that has been made in recent years, Virtual Reality is still too recent and is yet to be explored fully. After all, high-performance VR glasses have only been available to the public for around three years.
In order to explore the possibilities of Virtual Reality on a scholarly basis, the University of Potsdam launched its own e-learning research project entitled: “Teaching and Learning with VR/AR”.
For example, they explored to what extent VR simulations are suitable for training people to better assess real natural hazards. In another project, disruptions in the classroom are simulated to prepare future teachers for the challenging task of dealing with pupils.
Aside from these programs, however, learning with Virtual Reality applications has long since developed beyond the research phase. A number of companies already offer exciting opportunities for education and training, which give us an idea of the great potential this technology holds for the education sector.
Deutsche Bahn Uses VR Technology in Education and Training
The example of Deutsche Bahn is an impressive illustration of how VR can not only be used to optimize learning, but also to deliver tangible economic benefits. This is because Deutsche Bahn can use various training applications to transfer thousands of hours of training to virtual trains; trains that would otherwise have to be switched off for the training of personnel at enormous opportunity costs.
Concrete example: The operation of a wheelchair lift. This should enable staff to lift a passenger onto the train within two minutes. If this process takes any longer, it means the train driver cannot keep to the timetable, which, in many cases, results in a huge array of problems.
As many as 4,000 employees have to be trained for several hours on real trains for this specific process, as “dummy trains” do not exist for such tasks. However, trains that are utilized for training purposes cannot be used for regular rail transport, and so the costs of training personnel increase enormously.
Solution: Project EVE
Project EVE, which stands for Engaging Virtual Education, is a program that enables employees to learn how to perform different activities on a train by using data glasses. Employees can learn the movement sequences and test the functions of the respective devices. The project is generally well received by staff. Though training on a real train cannot be replaced completely, it can certainly be supplemented.
Implementing such complexly developed VR applications does initially require a high budget, but the savings that come through having many hours of additional trains will pay off in the long run.
Case Study: Language Learning with VR
Another example of successfully implemented Virtual Reality learning is a case study conducted by the Dutch language institute Regina Coeli with the help of the mobfish VR STUDIO. The mobfish VR STUDIO works according to the modular principle and does not require any development of specialized software. This makes it particularly suitable for small and medium-sized companies that also want to integrate VR into their company.
As part of the application, a VR world was used to create the illusion that the course participant was in a foreign country. The idea behind this was that they could learn the local language much more quickly than if they had just learned the language through training documents and lessons in the course room alone.
The participants were transported into the virtual realm and used their foreign language skills in the target country. The language trainer travelled with the course participant and was able to conduct dialogues directly in the virtual world. The environment could also be described in detail, and the participants were corrected directly if they did not speak with perfect pronunciation.
This model of a VR learning program has proven to be extremely efficient because the language was learned by activating multiple senses at once and by creating an immersive experience. The participants were very receptive and reacted with overwhelming positivity.
A test phase showed the resounding success of the project. Of the 35 course participants, 24 rated the Virtual Reality trip as very helpful and exciting. A further 10 participants were positively impressed; only 1 person had a more negative outlook.
However, the potential of the application was still far from exhausted. For example, city tours and other scenarios in which it would be possible to interact with virtual people could be realized with such an educational application.
Virtual Reality for the Learning of the Future
There is no doubt that Virtual Reality offers enormous possibilities for more efficient learning. On the one hand, there is great potential in further optimizing the immersive experience, which enables learning well suited to the human brain. On the other hand, training, especially in the commercial sector, is often associated with extreme costs, as can be seen from the example of Deutsche Bahn.
In any case, economic pressure will do much to promote the development of this new form of learning. Ultimately, learners will reap the benefits of better outcomes and teachers will enjoy increased cost savings.