Teaching in Virtual Reality
As a recent owner of the new HTC Vive, I am amazed by the immersive nature of virtual reality. I stood on the edge of a cliff, uneasily looking down. I visited the ruins of a castle in Germany, beautifully and accurately captured using photogrammetry. I stood next to a running stegosaurus, in actual size, feeling awed by its immensity. A stegosaur is not even one of the larger dinosaurs, yet I felt diminished by its sheer size! The experience of “being there” is so much more powerful than reading about it or seeing it on a computer screen.
For those not familiar with the HTC Vive and similar VR (Virtual Reality) goggles, I will give you a brief introduction. The HTC Vive consists of a pair of goggles which plug into your computer. You also get a pair of controllers which you hold in your hands. There are a couple wall-mounted sensors which detect your movements and communicate that information to your computer.
When you look around wearing the VR goggles, you also look around in the virtual world around you. Being able to look around freely makes one feel completely immersed in the virtual world. Additionally, with the HTC Vive you can also walk around and use the controllers, as your movement is tracked using the wall-mounted sensors. This adds to the immersive experience tremendously.
There are many games and experiences available on Steam – a gamers hub – designed for virtual reality. Many of them are free. One most excellent software available for free is called Lecture VR, created by VR Immersive Education. Today, I want to give you an introduction to Lecture VR and its role in the eLearning industry.
Lecture VR is a platform for educational content via the virtual reality platform. For some years now, students can take online classes via the internet. Typically, the experience includes watching webinars or pre-recorded videos, partaking in forums, and submitting homework via email or server uploads. All of these tools are still valid, yet further enhanced by what the technology of virtual reality can offer. So, what exactly can Lecture VR offer?
Regardless of geographical location, students and teachers can now share the same virtual space, and they can interact in it. A person from Australia can toss a virtual ball to a person from Canada, and the person from Canada can catch it. Geographical locations are no longer a boundary to learning.
It is one thing to hear a lecture about something, and quite another to see it. Videos brought us a step closer to being able to experience content visually, but VR has made the leap that takes us there! Imagine a history lesson about the battle of Thermopylae. Now imagine being there, seeing the armies engage, seeing the lay of the land, being able to fly around to view the battlefield from any angle, being able to advance or rewind the time. Even if the recreation of the battle is not absolutely accurate, being able to see it unfold before you is such an immersive experience that it becomes unforgettable.
How about other subjects, such as math? Can it also be presented more effectively and memorably in VR? Absolutely! In math, almost everything from trigonometry to calculus, statistics and algebra can be presented and explained in a visual way. Graphing functions and seeing the effect of manipulating variable in real time, visualizing derivatives or integrals, or seeing what a sine or cosine is using the unit circle – these are just a few examples of how mathematics can be shown visually to better understand and remember the material.
Every subject from physics and chemistry to literature and fine arts can benefit from immersive presentation in virtual reality.
WHO WILL CREATE THE CONTENT?
Lecture VR is a platform for presentation of content, just like Microsoft PowerPoint. The makers of Lecture VR have promised to forever make the software free to use, in order to promote eLearning. Anyone can create content for Lecture VR, and I expect to see a great deal coming soon. Lecture VR is currently in development, with Alpha 0.2 coming soon. However, even at this early stage, I can see the great potential ahead of such a platform. I have personal interest in developing educational content on this platform, and I am certain that many other eLearning developers are also very excited about this new venue for teaching and training.
WHERE CAN I GET LECTURE VR?
You can download Lecture VR for free on Steam. If you are interested in learning more about the makers of Lecture VR, you can find their website here.
If you are interested in learning more about Pathways Training and eLearning, Canada’s leading eLearning and training company, please visit us at our website here.