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What Are the Uses of Virtual Reality in Education?

Jacob Queen
Jacob Queen

There are several primary uses for virtual reality in education, and in some ways, the use of virtual experiences can potentially benefit almost any kind of educational subject. One of the most common ways that educators use virtual reality is to train students in things that are potentially dangerous, including surgical techniques for doctors and operational tactics for soldiers. Some teachers also love the potential of virtual reality in education with children because it may be a more engaging way of getting kids interested in the learning process. In many cases, virtual reality can simply provide a unique way of approaching a subject which might help students to pick up difficult concepts, and in this sense, it can have very broad applications.

When educators utilize virtual reality in education, there are several different kinds of technology that might be used. These include things like headsets with motion sensors on them, special rooms equipped with screens on all sides, and devices to detect hand motions for virtual movements. The technology behind virtual reality is still advancing, with researchers generally striving to find ways of making the processes more realistic and inexpensive enough to be widely available.

Virtual realty for medical professionals can allow them to become more effective at performing surgery on patients.
Virtual realty for medical professionals can allow them to become more effective at performing surgery on patients.

One of the main uses of virtual reality in education is to allow students to try things out that might be dangerous in real life. For example, there are virtual reality systems that give soldiers life-like combat experiences, exposing them to realistic levels of stress and asking them to make split-second decisions. Similar technology is often also used to teach doctors about surgical procedures, allowing them to repeat the surgeries as many times as they need to without endangering a patient’s life. This allows them to get real practice without the use of cadavers, potentially making them much more effective in performing surgery on real patients.

When using virtual reality in education for children, teachers often find that classes are much more interested and learn more easily. For example, if students were exposed to a virtual recreation of an historical location, they might potentially get more interested in learning about the history of the place and learn a lot from interacting with the simulation, possibly without even realizing they’re being educated. Generally speaking, some people learn better from experiences than they do from books or lectures, and for those individuals, virtual reality could have applications for helping learn almost any subject if applied in the right way.

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Discussion Comments


@indigomoth - It is getting easier and cheaper though. When you look at current game consoles and how people can interact with the games without even a controller now, you can see some of the steps we've taken. If you combine that with a 3D screen, you're most of the way there.

I think that most people really care about being able to see things and being able to interact with them.

Being able to feel them would be the next thing on the list, but frankly if you could put me in a classroom where I could see a virtual body in front of me and I could dissect it with a virtual scalpel I'd be a lot happier than I was in my real classroom when they made us all dissect a real frog.

I don't think it's far off and I just think it's a shame it didn't come sooner since I'm not likely to get the benefits of it, at least from an educational standpoint.


@pastanaga - I would argue that it isn't only the expense that stops people from using VR as a training tool.

It's actually quite difficult to create a realistic virtual reality environment, and honestly we haven't really done it yet. Not entirely.

In the case of, say astronauts, they have nothing better to turn to, so they have to use virtual reality. They have to emulate space conditions in lots of different ways though and will do things like work underwater and so forth.

We are getting closer to proper virtual reality though. 3D screens definitely help and they are working with other aspects of reality as well, like sound and smell. But in order to create a computer system that can move with a person and make them feel like they are really in a world, they would need a lot of power and I think that that is the reason they haven't been able to do it completely yet.


They also use virtual reality when there's no way of training a person without it.

When it comes to using certain kinds of equipment, or being in certain kinds of terrain, you simply can't take the person out to perform the genuine activity because it's too expensive. For example, using submarine equipment for research can be very expensive, so they'll only want to be using it for research, not for training purposes. But they also need to make sure that the people using it are experts, or they might make costly mistakes.

The more famous example, of course, is space flight. There is no way to give the astronauts extensive space training because every time they go up it's a real mission. So virtual reality training of various kinds is their best bet for getting them ready for the job.

I think it's going to become more and more available as it becomes cheaper to provide VR training than training on the job. At the moment, the only reason it isn't used more is that it's expensive to train someone with VR.

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    • Virtual realty for medical professionals can allow them to become more effective at performing surgery on patients.
      By: Kot63
      Virtual realty for medical professionals can allow them to become more effective at performing surgery on patients.