Gaming and Virtual Reality are remarkably comfortable bedfellows.
The immersive nature of VR means gamers can remain in complete control of what they’re doing, seeing and hearing. It’s big flashes and whizz bangs galore. Talk about popular. So what if we could transfer that interest to education?
Imagine being able to keep students engaged for an entire afternoon, knowing they’re retaining far more information than previously possible?
Slated for launch later this year, the experience puts viewers in the shoes of BBC war correspondent Wynford Vaughan-Thomas during a genuine bombing raid. Interestingly, it also uses the original radio broadcast from the trip to help capture the original atmosphere.
The 14-minute film takes users into the belly of a bomber during one of the most dramatic periods in Europe’s history. No corners cut, or covers drawn – it offers the full, breathtaking experience.
But then we’ve always known that with a nudge or two, history never fails to come alive. It’s why we all have a favourite memory of a history teacher enthralling groups of students with dramatic tales of Roman conquests or even medical breakthroughs.
The rest of the curriculum is a tougher nut to crack, however. Or is it?
How about a virtual field trip that shows inner-city students the great and the good of the natural world? Virtual tours of African plains from a classroom in Dudley can give youngsters an experience – and crucially, knowledge – that wasn’t possible when a blurry TV and VHS player (on a wonky trolley, naturally) was the only A/V equipment available.
Google Expeditions is a fine example of how this level of interaction can be achieved on a fairly modest budget with cardboard headsets and mobile phones. Cost will always be a factor for educators and high-end VR headsets aren’t always available in the classroom. If more students across the world can access this technology for just a few pounds at a time, that removes a key barrier to some of the poorest schools.
Medical students have been using VR for some time to gain an immersive insight into complicated procedures. Done properly, a VR experience can give students exactly the same view as a surgeon as he/she handles a heart transplant, for example. Where else would such a detailed observation be available?
Here at Laduma, we have worked with leading medical companies on a number of occasions. Most notably our collaboration with Edwards Life Sciences. We produced a 360° experience that showed heart valve surgery from the patient’s initial difficulties, through to surgery and post-operation recovery.
It received hugely positive reviews from hundreds of surgeons at the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therepeutics Conference in Washington D.C. in 2017.
Then there’s the potential for autistic students to benefit from using VR to help communication and develop physical gestures. Or how about a VR application that allows architecture students to build projects in a virtual space?
But herein lies the rub.
A VR experience, especially like those described above, should never seek to replace the real thing. It should compliment what they’re doing, seeing and hearing in the classroom, and give them a fresh perspective on reality.
Whizz bangs and all.