Virtual Reality Surging Into The Classroom

Bob Nilsson Director, Vertical Solutions Marketing Published 30 Aug 2016

Survey Results and Infographic

“We tried out the Google VR units at a school STEAM day activity for grades 3-6. Kids were enthralled – the challenge was engaging them in follow-through connecting the activity to ongoing curriculum.”

“We used VR in a CAD setting and students reverse engineered the google head set to draw their own headset on Autodesk inventor and printed them out on a 3d printer”

We have recently looked at different ecosystems around the world, so we visited these ecosystems in VR, allowing students to look around themselves and really see all the different elements which make up the ecosystem.”

“Students were engaged, teachers loved it!”

Comments left by respondents to “Virtual Reality in Education” survey by Extreme Networks, August, 2016. See more at bottom.

When we launched our survey Virtual Reality in the Classroom in mid-June, the topic was already being greeted enthusiastically. It’s grown even stronger since. Over half the schools surveyed report that they are actively investigating VR for classroom use. One quarter of the schools (and growing) are already using VR. While the majority are using the technology to explore science, many are also applying it to history, arts, math, design, and English.

VR in the classroom survey infographic

Benefits and Drawbacks

The major benefit of virtual reality in the classroom is that it engages students completely in the lesson. It sparks creativity and brings difficult concepts to life.  

The downside is there is not yet enough VR content and it is still perceived as difficult to implement. Many schools (30%) are not sure that their network infrastructure will be able to handle the increased network traffic that comes with VR. While some schools have found it challenging to fit VR into the curriculum, one school administrator explained, “Our teachers love integrating the VR into their curricular areas. They feel this offers students an opportunity to experience things they would never get the chance to from our small rural area.”

Affirmations and Surprises

We expected a high level of enthusiasm from educational innovators, but the uptake has been quicker than most people expected. We are surprised to see that many schools have gotten into teaching VR concepts, including the software and coding involved, as well as creating VR content themselves.

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Solving Resource Restrictions

One respondent is taking this approach to providing VR to students at low or no cost: “We are putting out a call for old smartphone donations in our district from families who no longer need them. With the donations, we’re making sets of Google Cardboard and phones to create traveling VR stations for classes in all of our buildings.”

Virtual Reality Progress Since June

We kicked off this survey back in June, and since then there have been a number of advances in the emerging world of virtual reality. Here are just four:

  • Google has eliminated restrictions on Expeditions, their VR field trips program. Google Expeditions was cited in the survey as one of the most popular sources of VR content, but with the lament that it was a restricted program. As of the end of June, those restricts have been lifted.
  • Intel recently announced Project Alloy; yet another major vendor throwing their weight behind virtual reality. According to their web announcement: “Project Alloy is an all-in-one virtual reality solution leveraging Intel RealSense technology. Project Alloy will be offered as an open platform in 2017.”
  • Samsung’s Gear VR has gotten more comfortable. Already one of the most popular and affordable VR headsets, Gear VR now weighs less and is better fitting.
  • Virtual Reality sessions were popular at ISTE 2016. The education technology conference featured several sessions, panels, and vendor displays about VR in the classroom. Particularly impressive were displays by zSpace, Google, and Lifeliqe on the expo floor.

Survey Summary

The major take-away of the survey is that Virtual Reality has an important and growing role in education, but it’s going to take a while, perhaps several years, to get all schools on board. VR isn’t regularly used and 40% of schools still aren’t sure if they’ll use the technology in the future. Very few, only 3%, are taking VR to the next step and teaching students how to code and create VR content.

“We used the Anatomy 4D app, as well as others, with teachers at a workshop to introduce the concept of VR. Teachers were very excited about the possibilities.”

“We thought it would be great for educational tours. They just use it to play on.”

“I think VR in the education world is going to take off. I can see us being able to demo things better and give the whole experience.”

“Our students have been developing a VR model of a cow’s anatomy for dissection and study. You have the ability to drill down to the circulatory system, brain, muscle, skeletol, etc. Our applied tech program is using VR in conjunction with Autocad for models of projects they design.”

“It was fantastic! Students were so engaged and it brought enthusiasm to everyone involved!”

“Thanks for asking the questions that can help to shape the future.”


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