Virtual reality is penetrating education. Together with mboRijnland, Leiden virtual reality expert Robin de Lange held a VR-Learning day for software-development students in early November at innovation center PLNT. The students worked on virtual worlds and had the opportunity to present them.
Seeing the Anne Frank House without being among a crowd of people. That’s possible in virtual reality. With VR headset on, it is possible to take a peek behind the cabinet. With the push of a button on the controller, you climb the stairs to the top. Anyone who has ever played a VR game knows that the ‘playing field’ is limited. You should not want to step outside the boundaries of the game, because then you might run into a table or a cabinet in the real world. In the Anne Frank House, this does not happen so quickly. In fact, the rooms are so small that there is not much room to move around. In the virtual recreation of het Achterhuis, the stuffiness of the rooms is palpable.
The virtual simulation of the Anne Frank House is just the tip of the iceberg of what is possible a virtual reality. Media technologist Robin de Lange is committed to Virtual Reality apply to areas other than just the gaming world. “Since the release of the Oculus Rift, there are so many possibilities,” he says. “Especially in education.” Through VR, he wants to ensure that students can practice physical skills while giving more context to the subject. This includes guiding students both with coding a virtual simulation and mfet experiencing it.
During the VR day at PLNT, the mbo students in Leiden worked on virtual worlds using an approachable coding program that operates via ‘drag & drop’. This allowed them to complete the assignments they were given and build a virtual reality for it.
During the VR learning day, the youth presented their projects to their fellow students and to businesses in PLNT. For example, as part of the study information for the Open Day, a simulation of the cooking course was made. Students stepped into this and received information about the study through the virtual learning environment. They could even prepare a sandwich. For security training, a fire drill was simulated in which students could choose how they would handle specific situations.
The application of VR in education makes sense because it provides a different way of processing information. According to de Lange, VR mainly strikes a chord with students who are less comfortable with abstraction. In such cases, VR can help them visualize things better. “It’s very different when you can experience the information instead of just reading it,” he says. “If retail students have to learn what to do during a robbery, it’s still a lot more impressive if they’re in the middle of it.” Software-development teacher Linde Verbaas of mboRijnland adds: “Students do eventually enter the job market with more practical knowledge.”
However, a lot of research still needs to be done on the application of VR in education. It can be very educational to really experience the stress of a fire or a robbery in a virtual reality, but it can also defeat its purpose. De Lange admits that they do need to be careful about immersing students in this type of situation. Moreover, visualizing everything can also affect young people’s imagination. He says he discusses these kinds of issues in the Honors Class he teaches at the university.
De Lange is convinced that VR can be very useful in education. “The VR glasses exist now and children and young people are encountering them anyway,” De Lange said. “We can best introduce them to this in an educational setting.”