How Can Virtual Reality Be Used To Improve Education?

The future of education technology is exciting, especially when you consider advancements in specific technologies like virtual reality (VR). In this article, we’ll dive into some of the ways VR can help improve education as a whole and give examples of the technology by subject area.

Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Virtual reality is used in schools to improve education by giving students, of all levels and backgrounds, the same opportunity to experience their learning in a more immersive and engaged way. VR helps develop a better understanding of the information not possible with traditional teaching methods that focus on fact retention. Whether it’s a trip to a virtual zoo or a science experiment done in a virtual lab, virtual reality helps students to not only see, but interact with the lessons they are being taught.  

Teach with Students using VR

Examples of Virtual Reality in Schools by Subject

When we talk about virtual reality, we are talking about computer-generated simulations that allow a user to interact with an artificial three-dimensional visual or other sensory environment. VR helps enhance learning by allowing students to interact with their lessons and experience it in different ways. Instead of just reading about a subject, students are able to see the things they are learning, helping students understand complex topics.

Below, we’ll share some examples of ways virtual reality can be used in different subject areas of education.  

Using Virtual Reality To Teach Writing Concepts in Language Arts

Storytelling can be difficult when students are first learning to write. Virtual reality can help develop different writing styles including expository, descriptive, persuasive and narrative by helping students visualize the concepts.

Expository writing seeks to explain a topic. As an assignment, students could be asked to write about what they want to be when they grow up and explain why that would be a great job. Let’s say the student wanted to be a doctor. The student could become a doctor in VR and role-play taking care of a patient. The student could look around the virtual doctor’s office, see the patient’s chart and help come up with a diagnosis. This experience would help them understand the job and give them insights on what to write in their essay.

Descriptive writing seeks to describe a person, place or thing. An assignment could be to write a descriptive essay about the Biltmore House on the Vanderbilt Estate in Asheville, North Carolina. The student could put on a VR headset and walk through all 178,000 sq. ft. and truly understand what it’s like to be there. You could take this a step further and have the student research the Biltmore House history and give the entire class a tour of it in VR to help build presentation skills.

Persuasive writing aims to convince others of your point of view. A writing prompt for a high school student could be, “What is something you believe is truly worth fighting for? Write an essay persuading others that this cause is worth their support.” If a student chose to write about cleaning up the oceans, they could visit beaches around the world and see the amount of trash piling up on different shores. They could see how the trash affects marine life by following a diver as they pick up trash along the ocean floor. Persuasive writing requires research, and the immersive nature of virtual reality allows students to not only experience their research, but do so cost-effectively.

A story written from the perspective of the main character is a narrative. An assignment could be to write a story about a baseball player hitting a grand slam. Imagine being able to see the pitch come in as if you were the batter and hitting the pitch over the fence. The sounds of the crowd, the feeling of rounding third base and having your entire team waiting for you at home plate cheering. That’s possible with virtual reality. How much better do you think the story from that student will be now that they have not just imagined the event, but have virtually lived it?

How to Use Virtual Reality to Develop Math Skills

Mathematics is one of the most important subject areas we are introduced to as children. Math teaches us problem-solving skills and helps us describe the world around us. Virtual reality can help students learn some of the more challenging types of math through enhanced visualization.

In 3rd grade, practicing division helps us learn about grouping things into manageable portions. In a virtual world, a student could learn to divide a group of baseballs into 3 equal parts by physically moving the baseballs to three different buckets.  

In 5th grade, as students learn the order of operations (PEMDAS), virtual reality could be used to move around the math symbols to make the problem work. If students move a symbol incorrectly, they could see how it changes the answer.

In 7th grade, learning the probability of compound events can be tricky. Give students  a six-sided die and have them calculate the probability of rolling a five. Once they learn that the probability is roughly 11 percent, the students could then virtually roll a die 100 times and see how many times they rolled a five.  

Having students experience math in more tangible ways makes the subject more engaging and fun and helps reinforce concepts.

How Virtual Reality Improves Science Education

Science provides important critical thinking and problem-solving skills that students need in today’s world. The cost of a science lab that accommodates 24 students is approximately $323,000, and many schools simply can’t afford it. That’s where virtual reality comes in.

What happens when you take alkali metal and put it in water? Or when you mix copper and nitric acid? Is it dangerous? Virtual reality allows students to safely experiment with different chemicals in a virtual laboratory setting.

Virtual reality also can help students study sciences that are difficult to learn simply from a textbook. Take a journey through the human cell or explore the skeletal system in virtual reality. See how the human heart pumps blood throughout the circulatory system. Become a virtual paleontologist and dig up dinosaur bones all across the world.

Virtual reality provides access to science like never before. With K-12 schools being underfunded by $150 billion annually, VR technology allows all students to participate in learning this crucial area of study.

Using Virtual Reality to Teach Social Studies

Social studies is the study of people in relation to each other. In school, this topic covers the social sciences including history, geography, political science, and economics. 

In History class, as discussed in our Technology in the Classroom article, students can take a virtual field trip to far-away lands. They can explore the Giza plateau, see what life was like in ancient China or ancient Greece, and climb the steps of El Castillo at Chichen Itza in Mexico. Students could learn about these cultures and visit them all in the same day through virtual reality. 

In Geography, virtual reality can put students on top of Mount Everest or at the bottom of the Mariana Trench. Students can explore a cave formation in South America or take a ride down the Nile River in Africa. Immersing students in the world of geography helps them better understand climate, land formations, bodies of water and natural resources.

In Political Science, students could be a member of the crowd at Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” or Martin Luther King Jr’s “I Have a Dream” speech. They could attend the annual “State of the Union” address as a member of Congress. One day, virtual reality, in conjunction with artificial intelligence, might allow a student to interview a past President. In economics, we can use VR to take a virtual field trip to a local bank. There students could deposit a check, withdraw money or set up a savings account to help them learn the basics of banking and financial literacy. Students could visit the Stock Exchange on Wall Street and see how the financial markets work. With virtual reality, we can teach elementary school students about goods and services by virtually role-playing jobs they may want to do when they grow up.

Virtual Reality in Physical Education Classes

Virtual reality in physical education can help students learn everything from individual sports to nutrition. 

Not all sports can be played on school grounds due to limitations of space or gear; VR can eliminate some of those barriers. In PE class, students can experience the game of cricket by attending a virtual match and learning about the rules and strategy as they watch. Students can take a quiz about basketball as teachers ask the students to line up at the free throw line and grade them on their location.  

Students could also learn about gym equipment and how to use it properly. Visiting a virtual gym with a digital trainer would help students know how to use workout machines, free weights, and other exercise equipment to develop their bodies.

Virtual reality can also help students learn about proper nutrition. A student could be given a virtual plate and asked to build a meal that has the proper amount of grains, fruits, vegetables, protein and dairy. Students could visit a supermarket and look over the nutrition label on items and determine if it is a good choice or not.  

How VR Can Help Save Music and Art Classes

Students who are involved with the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement. But it’s no secret that art and music class budgets are being cut across the country. Virtual reality can save these important curricula so students don’t miss out on this vital aspect of their education.

Virtual reality provides the ability for a student to take a trip to a museum and discover art from around the world. While learning about a specific artist, a student can virtually visit the artist’s hometown and see the environment that inspired their great paintings.

Students can learn about instruments through virtual reality too. Whether it’s virtually taking apart a trumpet or learning to play the strings of a guitar, VR helps students interact with instruments that may not otherwise be available due to cost constraints. The class could even play as a group in virtual reality and see how the sounds interact.

In Conclusion

As you can see, VR can improve education in many ways. These examples, however, illustrate just a very small fraction of the potential uses of virtual reality and other technologies in schools and the benefits to students. To learn more about technology in education, join us for the next Future of Education Technology® Conference.