The Coming Virtual Reality for Education Hype

Why I’m way too excited about VR.

December 16, 2015

We edtech people are suckers for the next big technology. Or at least I am.

Let me count the technologies that I was sure would ‘revolutionize’ education:

  1. The iPod
  2. Learning Objects
  3. Simulations
  4. Second Life
  5. Adaptive Learning Platforms
  6. Mobile Learning
  7. The iPad
  8. Gamification
  9. MOOCs
  10. Analytics

What am I missing from this list technologies that were/are going to change education?

The latest technology that I’m way too excited about is virtual reality (VR).  

Are you with me in dreaming about what an online learning experience would feel like strapped into an Oculus Rift?  

Can you just imagine how a VR headset could provide online students the same sensory experience of they can get in an in-person class?

Do you dream about how synchronous online classes will feel when Adobe Connect (or whatever platform you use) goes virtual and immersive?

Forget participating in edX or Coursera courses on my phone - things are going to be way different when the MOOC is optimized for virtual reality.

In the next few years we are all going to hear an awful lot about how VR is going to revolutionize education.  We are going to see big time venture dollars going into VR education companies.  There will be VR booths at EDUCAUSE and VR articles in the edtech press.  Forward looking schools will do VR classroom pilot projects.  Tweeters will tweet.  Bloggers will blog.  Our edtech community is going to get very excited about VR.

And then nothing will change.

We will look back on the VR hype and wonder what we were thinking.  We will talk about how VR did nothing to widen access, lower costs, or improve quality.

So maybe we should spare ourselves the coming edtech VR hype and stipulate a few things:

  • Learning is a relational activity, and if we want to improve learning we should invest in our educators.
  • Foundational courses, along with assessment of foundational mastery, will rapidly move to Internet scale and towards a low-cost model.
  • Higher order skills, such as communication / collaboration / critical thinking / coalition building / leadership, are best learned at human scale.

Technologies such the Oculus Rift will be great, but they will be deployed at the commoditized end of teaching and learning.

The true value of education, the type of education that people will pay for, is only found at a scale where an educator can get to know a learner as an individual.

Are you as excited about VR as I am?



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