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The Benefits of 360˚ videos & Virtual Reality in Education

a year ago

From bulky computers to swish iPads, from clunky projectors to intuitive SMART boards, technology has always gone hand in hand with education. Now, without a shadow of a doubt, 360° video and virtual reality are starting to take the technological reins in the education sector. This is not only down to 360° video and VR becoming increasingly accessible, but also due to the huge number of benefits they have for teaching and learning.

An increasing number of creators within Blend Media’s network are producing educational content, for example, check out this educational 360˚ video on the Kumbh Mela Pilgrimage in India, by Elysian Studios.

These 360° videos can easily be interacted with on computers or even in affordable Google Cardboard headsets in the classroom.

A few lucky schools and universities are also investing in more advanced virtual reality headsets like Oculus Rift, which was released for consumer use in March 2016.

If you would like to find out how 360 video and VR could benefit your educational organisation then please get in touch. We'll be able to provide a solution!

So you must be asking, why are 360˚ videos and virtual reality so beneficial for the education sector?

I caught up with Chris Nash, Head of Community at Discovery Education UK, to find out his thoughts on 360 VR in education…

What are the benefits of 360˚ video in education?

When it comes to education, 360˚ videos basically act as personal fieldtrips. The teacher is able to transport their students on a 360 VR trip to a place or set of places that would otherwise be inaccessible to their class. Whether exploring shark-infested shipwrecks, experiencing what it’s like to leave Earth, or traveling to over 90,000 feet into the stratosphere, resources such as Discovery VR’s 360˚ video library are powerful ways for a teacher to augment their lessons and raise engagement.

"Exploring a distant planet, travelling through the inside of a human body, and walking alongside a dinosaur are just some examples of experiences that take learning to new heights."

Just like when standard video was introduced to the classroom, 360˚ video allows learners to make better connections with their learning by providing concrete, visual explanations and examples. 360˚ video makes it an even more immersive video experience and allows the learner to engage with their surroundings. By introducing a ‘sense of presence’ to learners, these interactions have the potential to develop greater empathy and deeper understanding. Roman Krznaric, in Habits of Highly Empathic People (2012), suggests the following can be developed as a result:

  • Cultivating curiosity about strangers
  • Challenging prejudices and discover commonalities
  • Gaining direct experience of other people's lives
  • Developing an ambitious imagination
What are the benefits of VR in education?

VR video simulations allow learners to have experiences that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. Exploring a distant planet, travelling through the inside of a human body (see Torsten Hoffmann's video below), and walking alongside a dinosaur are just some examples of experiences that take learning to new heights. As such it can help develop an understanding of more complex subjects, theories, or concepts and provides a more active than passive learning environment which helps to embed learning.

Bloom’s taxonomy suggests that pupils remember 90% of what they say and do, and by creating VR resources using virtual reality applications such as CoSpaces, they have the potential to not only experience immersive settings and interactions but also create the same for others.

As an additional benefit, VR experiences can be practiced in every possible language. If you want to study in a different country, you no longer need to understand and speak their language. Alternatively, if you are seeking to learn a new language there are virtual reality applications out there, such as House of Languages VR, which enables you to do so. This app in particular helps you learn new vocabulary in various VR environments.

Are there any areas of education in particular where 360˚ and VR are particularly beneficial?

As well as developing creative language to foster improved literacy, VR experiences and 360˚ video can have powerful empathetic implications.

"VR experiences and 360˚ video have the capacity to enhance the understanding of historical context, geographical settings, scientific discovery and empathy in PSHE - personal, social, health and economic education."

Many believe that the rise in social networking and the decrease in face-to-face relationships are linked to a significant decrease in empathy amongst young people. Low levels of empathy are connected to increased bullying, narcissism, civic apathy and rigid belief systems. Fortunately, VR and 360˚ video are both fantastic mediums to educate children about human emotions and empathy. They are able to truly immerse themselves in real life scenarios, such as in Jean Toribio’s 360˚ video below.

How are we implementing 360˚ and VR video into education? Any challenges?

Like all new technologies, there is a danger that it's perceived as just a novelty which is used because it might be fun, rather than a serious educational reason for doing so. Limiting the kit available in class can help with this. By providing just five or six kits, the resources can be viewed in rotation, providing time and space for discussion and thought. This also avoids the teacher having to manage a class who have ‘disappeared inside their headsets’.

A big challenge is expense. To date, most schools’ experiences have come through a Google Expeditions demonstration, a virtual reality application built by Google that allows teachers to guide their students on immersive virtual journeys all over the world.  Very few schools have been able to purchase dedicated kit for the classroom due to cost and available budgets.

Often a teacher may just provide a single VR headset with their own phone for group work. This obviously has a number of challenges including how to keep the other learners engaged and active while the headset is being used by one group.

We are seeing some local authorities purchasing equipment centrally which is then loaned out to schools which seems to be a more scalable model.

Another aspect to consider is the age and type of immersive experience you introduce to learners. It’s generally accepted that headsets shouldn’t be used with children younger than seven years old  and higher-end kit such as Samsung Gear VR is not recommended for under 13’s. Therefore these types of educational experiences are appropriate for learners over the age of 13.

The types of activities that are suitable for this type of learning include  virtual field trips, immersive storytelling, games and quests, interactive art, science modelling and 3D design showcase. We’re also seeing examples of educational administration uses such as virtual school tours and VR assemblies.

What interesting educational virtual reality applications or programs are out there?

Below are a selection of applications and programs that I like:

  • ActiveLens - BETT award winning AR & VR learning resource for the classroom.
  • CoSpaces.io - Easy-to-use program that allows users to build their own VR environments.
  • Discovery VR - Educational 360˚ video portfolio which allows you to explore new places, characters and ideas.
  • Augment - A VR plugin for SketchUp which allows users to bring 3D designs to life in AR from your smartphone or tablet.
  • SketchFab - Publish, share and discover 3D content online and in VR.
  • With.in - A library of informative and entertaining VR stories.
  • Cardboard Camera - Capture and share moments with a VR photos app.
  • Tilt Brush - Paint and design in VR (see video below).
Finally, what are your projections for mixed reality (MR) in education?

The future is certainly promising for mixed reality in education. MR allows the user to locate themselves in the virtual and real world at the same time; it is a space where both physical and digital entities coexist and interplay in real time. It presents fewer issues for behaviour management in the class as pupils retain a sense of presence in both locations and are not so distracted from the classroom learning experience.

I also think that the development of AI in conjunction with AR/VR/MR also presents some fascinating scenarios and opportunities.  

With augmented reality, users hold up their phone or tablet to see virtual objects placed in the real world. This means you can bring hard to reach items into the classroom for a virtual object handling experience and really evaluate them in depth.

Here are some really interesting examples from Google Labs:

AR also has the ability to explain abstract and difficult concepts due to its ability to render anything in 3D that is challenging to visualise, such as a the mechanics of an engine or the anatomy of the human body. Not only is it fun and intuitive for everyone, it’s particularly useful for visual learners.

Thank you for your responses Chris – it definitely seems like 360˚ videos, VR and even AR are starting to play important roles in the field of education. Clearly, they are incredibly immersive tools which allow children of all learning abilities to interact with realistic surroundings, explore and experience. These experiences mean that children and learners of all ages are no longer passive spectators, instead, they are wholly part of the experience. 360˚ videos and virtual reality increase engagement and the attention span of students because they are more interactive, and quite simply, fun! They’re more likely to chat to their friends about the powerful experiences they’ve had and are therefore more likely to remember what they have seen and experienced.

I was always told at school that a picture speaks a thousand words, so 360VR must speak infinity...

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