Virtual and augmented reality (AR/VR) are still pretty novel concepts, especially to the classroom. Coming under the umbrella of extended reality (XR), as such new technologies their efficacy for learning is difficult to assess. Many educators still see extended reality edtech as a fad.
But in 2017, a comprehensive literature review on augmented reality for the classroom found that AR can support teaching through promoting “enhanced learning achievement”. With practical experience being one of the most effective ways to learn, this would stand to make sense. After all, the ability of extended reality technology to immerse students in real-world situations is unparalleled (short of the actual real-world). So is VR in the classroom is right for you?
If you’re apprehensive of investing time, energy – and money! – into extended reality edtech, we’ve broken down some of the pros and cons.
Con: high cost
Obviously, upfront cost is a huge barrier for schools thinking about investing in extended reality edtech. While more cost-effective options are popping up every day, this is still one of the biggest drawbacks to implementing XR technology in classrooms.
Pro: access all areas
Accessibility is one of the main draws to extended reality edtech. After the initial equipment investment, costly practical experiences can happen virtually. Additional needs students can use AR/VR to experience real world scenarios safely, to gain valuable experience that they can later apply externally.
Virtual excursions mean that there are fewer cost barriers for individuals or schools who may not be able to afford transportation fees. Google Expeditions lets students explore underwater environments, or art from cultures around the World, from the comfort of the classroom.
Extended reality edtech can be quite insular, removing some of the social element that you get with classroom-based learning. To involve the whole class, mirror personal XR devices to a front of class display like the ActivPanel.
Pro: diverse content
Extended reality edtech means you can show complex ideas or situations rather than explaining. Gamified content can become even more engaging, and options for apps are vast given the fast-growing nature of the XR gaming industry.
AR and VR in the classroom can also allow practise with things that would otherwise be ethically ambiguous. For instance, instead of real animal dissection, students can explore anatomies digitally.
Con: eye comfort
XR technologies may cause eyestrain, as students may feel the need to blink less often, leading to dry eyes. This is particularly true for VR headsets, the screens of which are positioned so close to the wearer’s eyes. Differences between actual and perceived depth can also cause eye fatigue, so extended periods of use should be avoided.
Pro: hybrid potential
Future hybrid strategies suddenly open up when you give students access to their own at-home VR headset. This could provide as near to a real classroom experience, short of being there in-person, from anywhere in the world.
Con: technical difficulties
The 2017 literature review found that the most reported challenge is that extended reality edtech is difficult for students to use, with frequent technical problems. This is an issue that will likely improve as the technology becomes more diverse and tested through time.
If you’re looking at ways to diversify the technology in your classroom, check out our blog on creating an edtech ecosystem.