In the education sector, technology developments have dramatically impacted the experience for both students and teachers typically making it more effective, convenient and affordable.
At Online Education Services (OES) we play an active role in researching, testing and deploying technologies and innovations that improve the student experience.
A recent example is the development and release of a Virtual Reality (VR) solution for an online course with a residential component. VR is an artificial, computer-generated simulation or recreation of a real-life environment or situation. It immerses the student by making them feel like they are experiencing the simulated reality firsthand, primarily by stimulating their vision and hearing. This particular VR simulation prepares the students for their first residential on campus through the use of VR headsets with their smart phone, allowing them to effectively walk around the campus from the comfort of their own homes. This not only saves them orientation time but also helps to improve their confidence levels.
A key driver behind the decision to use VR technology was the belief that a tool that gives students an on-demand immersive experience delivers more effective learning. A recent US study backs this thinking with the University of Maryland’s Virtual memory palaces: immersion aids recall research suggesting that VR head-mounted displays help create more memorable experiences that enhance productivity through better recall of large amounts of information.
Amitabh Varshney, Professor of Computer Science and Dean of the College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences at UMD said at the time, “By showing that virtual reality can help improve recall, it opens the door to further studies that look at the impact of VR-based training modules at all levels — from elementary school children learning astronomy to trauma residents acquiring the latest knowledge in lifesaving procedures. We believe the future of education and innovation will benefit greatly from the use of these new visual technologies.”
Beyond the ability of VR to drive more effective learning through the immersive experience, the technology can provide other significant benefits to the education experience. It gives students the ability to revisit and repeat aspects of learning. It takes them to places they physically could not visit, improving their understanding. It enhances student engagement purely through its novelty factor and by putting students in control, allowing them to interact more directly and independently with each other and the learning content. It promotes convenience and flexibility by providing remote access to the learning experience. Finally, it drives significant savings by reducing the time and costs associated with studying in labs or other physical settings. For teachers, the use of VR to supplement the learning experience will also provide non-invasive insights into how students are learning, with the ability to track student behaviour and analyse data generated from all student interactions.
While the application of VR technology is potentially a huge step forward for education, it is only one area amongst a spectrum of other technologies that warrant close monitoring and testing for their use in enhancing the education experience. Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR) are two closely related areas that will likely have similar applications and benefits. Beyond these, OES is monitoring, researching and developing solutions and innovations across twenty emerging technology areas which have the potential to deliver significant value and outstanding outcomes for our partner universities and their students.
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