VR has been known as the best provider of escapism, but it is also some of the best ways to educate and learn about the world.
Throughout my 21 years on this Earth, I have witnessed the rapid changes in technology from learning how to use the floppy discs and MS-Dos at 6 years old to being awed at the first experience of virtual reality. I’ve kept being impressed by the development of technology and how it is used to advance human life. What an exciting time to be alive!
I have the pleasure of working for IT division at my college, more specifically Academic Tech department. I am provided with opportunities to learn about new tech and explore their applications to education. One of the most impressive and popular technologies today has to be virtual reality. We started from Google cardboard and goggles a few years ago, and it was neat but there were limitations. Last year, our IT division got the first HTC Vive, a “full-body” VR experience. It was spectacular!
At first place, it was used as our new discovery into the technological magical land, but the best thing about virtual reality must be how it is implemented into education and build the bridge between our students and the world.
Our first project to incorporate VR is introducing several mobile applications such as Google Expeditions to the campus community. In this app, users can take a self-leading tour to discover a new landscape, artwork, and learn more about history with VR images, sometimes sounds and detailed information articulated for the specific tour. Faculties and students can articulate their own Google tour and lead the trip. For instance, instead of having a presentation about New York City, a student can lead their peers on a virtual tour to see NYC from inside their classrooms. It is truly a wonderful way to encourage students to be more engaged with the contents and do things that are not physically possible.
After the success of the first program, we collaborated with the Center for Global Engagement at SNC to roll out the first VR room in De Pere. It is called “No Borders” because our goal and mission is to take students, faculties, and the community beyond the physical borders and encourage global learning and conversation. We use HTC Vive and Google Earth as the tools for visitors to begin their journey. We had achieved some success with language classes, philosophy, and art. Spanish professors have taken students to Spain and shown them how the pictures in the book come alive.
My other reason to make this my passion project because I wanted to introduce the beauty of the massive world out there to my fellow students, especially who are thinking about learning a new language, traveling, or even spending a semester studying abroad. I also love to revisit some of my favorite destinations abroad and my home countries via VR.
I believe that VR technology will keep involving and bring more benefits to our education beyond what is traditionally possible. Thus, next time when you are wondering if you want to travel abroad and afraid of the uncertainty of a new country, why not take the first step by looking into a VR stimulation and familiarize yourself with it.