ohn Pickavance, PhD Researcher in Cognitive Science discusses how VR technologies can be powerful learning aids.
You’ve probably heard how Virtual Reality (VR) is going to change everything: the way we work, the way we live, the way we play. Still, for every truly transformative technology, there are landfills of hoverboards, 3D televisions, Segways, and MiniDiscs – the technological scrap it turns out we didn’t need.
It’s reasonable to approach VR with a degree of scepticism, but allow me to explain three ways in which VR can transform the way we learn, and why we, as psychologists, are so excited about it.
Exploring the unexplorable
VR for everyone and everything
Every learner’s goal is to cultivate a large enough range of experience that individual elements can be drawn upon to meet the demands of novel problems. To this end, a great deal has been invested into training simulators for high-risk skills such as flying and surgery. But there are many lower-risk skills which would benefit from simulation, there’s just been little reason to justify investment. That is, until now.
Advancements in mobile technology have led to high-definition VR sets for the price of a mid-range TV. Without the financial barrier, consumer-grade VR opens the door to improve skills training in settings where the real thing isn’t readily available.
The advantages are twofold. Student absences from field trips become less of a hindrance with access to an accurate simulation. The challenges of surveying a mountainous region differ from those in a tropical rainforest. It may be easier to see where you’re going, but your choice of path will be more constrained. VR can present these different biomes without students having to visit all corners of the Earth. The learner’s experience is expanded, and they’re better equipped to tackle novel problems in the field.
Wearing (a VR headset) is caring