Busting 3 myths about virtual reality tools

Virtual reality is starting to become an L&D buzzword, with some communities excited about the possibilities and others not too sure. In this article, we find out what virtual reality is, and bust some myths surrounding it.

Let’s dive in!

What is virtual reality?

VR? XR? AR? The variations in terminology can be confusing. Let’s break it down:

  • VR means Virtual reality. Learners are immersed in a completely virtual environment, usually with the aid of a headset and sometimes other hardware (eg. VR gloves) allow you to interact with a virtual environment
  • AR means Augmented reality. Learners can still see parts of real life, but some elements of what they see are digital. 
  • XR means eXpanded reality. It’s an umbrella term for all things VR and AR. Expanded reality is everything and anything that’s not 100% real life.

So, now that we’re clear on what the acronyms mean, let’s dive into some of the myths surrounding VR.

Is virtual reality a gimmick?

Virtual reality has been around for longer than you might think. One of the first discussions of a VR-like simulation was written in 1965, where Ivan Sutherland described a room where a chair displayed by a computer would “be good enough to sit in”. VR has been around for a long time, and it’s safe to say that it’s here to stay.

But is VR worth using in education?

Let’s have a look at some scholarship surrounding VR. One study compares the difference before and after students deliver presentations while using a VR headset that gives them feedback. The results indicate that VR can give learners actionable feedback when conducting tasks that have clear outcomes. In this context, VR has been shown to be practical and useful for both trainers and students.

Ultimately, we believe that VR is what you make of it. Like any learning experience, it requires careful design and consideration of your audience. Later, we talk about some of the best situations to implement VR, so keep reading.

Is VR too expensive?

One of the most significant barriers to implementing virtual reality tools is that the hardware is too expensive to roll out at scale. From purchasing VR headsets to designing and developing the scenarios to training staff on use and troubleshooting, it can feel overwhelming and dearly priced.

But it doesn’t need to be that way.

VR headsets don’t need to be fully immersive helmets with specially designed gloves. Why not begin with a basic solution to determine if VR is appropriate for your context? Options such as Google Cardboard work by attaching a specially folded piece of cardboard to your phone. Cardboards can cost under $10 per unit.

Don’t want to commit to VR just yet, but still want to build an interactive learning experience? Why not develop activities in a SCORM package that can be used with a VR headset when you’re ready? 

The award-winning MATE Bystander Program from Griffith University works just like this. Produced in CenarioVR and filmed with a 360-degree camera, the interactive learning experience works both in your browser and on a VR headset. This way, learners get the benefits of immersive training without having to worry about hardware.

Does VR reduce human interaction?

For many learners, human interaction and social learning is a priority. So, when it’s used in isolation, it’s very possible that VR might make some learners feel isolated and reduce human interaction.

But VR is a learning tool just like any other, so it shouldn’t be the only one you use. We always recommend a variety of learning activities to keep learners engaged and excited about their learning. 

To support face-to-face learning, tools like Totara’s Seminar Activity can help you organise facetime with your learners and to help them feel a sense of belonging. Furthermore, VR should only be used in contexts where it’s appropriate. 

VR works best when your training requires learners to:

  • Perform a difficult or dangerous task
  • Gain a different perspective of a scenario
  • Learn tasks that are dangerous in real life
  • Gain repeated experience in areas that are infrequent or difficult to replicate

By not using VR in isolation, and only using VR where it’s appropriate, learners won’t feel like they’re missing out on the valuable facetime that they crave.

WHAT CAN VIRTUAL REALITY DO FOR YOUR ORGANISATION?

To find out more about how VR can revolutionise learning at your institution, check out our case studies or get in touch with a friendly Androgogue today.