What is Virtual Reality and how can it be used for education?

Virtual reality is the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person. Simply put, it is the creation of a virtual environment presented to our senses in such a way that we experience it as if we were really there.

Despite being primarily used for entertainment, virtual reality can be a great tool in the classroom. In fact, companies like Google and Nearpod have already taken the initiative in merging virtual reality with education.

  • Google Expeditions, a venture by Google, provides free lessons for field trips to virtually anywhere. I will be using Google Expeditions for my project. Read more about Google Expeditions
  • Nearpod, another company, provides similar educational VR lessons for classrooms but works on a subscription system. Because it is paid and provides the same quality of education as Google, I decided to go with Google. Explore Nearpod

Learning using virtual reality has a variety of benefits, and can greatly improve education in classrooms.

General Benefits

  • VR learning is an active rather than passive experience; students are directly involved
  • An immersive experience means no distractions
  • Immediate engagement, a product of VR Learning, is useful in today’s world of limited attention spans
  • Exploration and hands on approach aids with learning and retention and helps with understanding complex concepts.
  • Technological literacy is essential in today’s world, and it is important to incorporate technology into education

VR learning will help to culturally enrich students in elementary school itself, giving them exposure to the rest of the world without actually going there. While looking into VR, I found that it could also help students with subjects other than humanities and history. Teachers can use VR to teach students biology, systems of cells and more. By virtually traveling into cells to see their inner workings or by experiencing the ISS from the comfort of a classroom, teachers can engage students and make them interested in subjects that would otherwise provoke boredom or resistance.

Topics Covered by Google Expeditions

To date, Google has developed more than 500 different “expeditions” and continues to introduce more through announcements every week. Categories of expeditions include:

  • Arts and Culture
  • Landscapes
  • Science
  • Environment
  • The World Today
  • Careers
  • Colleges

You can view the full, updated list of expeditions here, or download the Google Expeditions app here and explore available expeditions on your mobile device.