Virtual Reality is Transporting Students to the Next Frontier in Science Education
Imagine walking along the Great Wall of China to study engineering design or standing among the ancient redwoods in Muir National Monument in California to learn about photo synthesis, without ever leaving the classroom.
Virtual reality is making it possible for students to explore new worlds and interact with science in a way they haven’t before. CEO of Victory Enterprises and founder of VictoryVR Steve Grubbs, a member of YPO, believes virtual reality is the next educational frontier.
Long gone are the days when students go to class with a notebook and a textbook. Today, laptops and iPads are common. And tomorrow, virtual reality will likely be integrated into most classrooms.
Microsoft is paving the way for that transition by providing 25 hours worth of free VictoryVR science content to schools that purchase a Windows VR headset. VictoryVR content is also compatible with Oculus Rift, Oculus Go, HTC Vive, HTC Vive Focus and Windows Mixed Reality headsets. Students around the world will soon be able to experience science more memorably than they would by reading about it in a book or watching it happen on screen.
“The greatest problem in education is not funding but rather students loving what they learn,” says Grubbs. “If we can help teachers create a love of learning in their students then we can change the world.”
Understanding technology’s newest tool
After putting on a virtual reality headset a few years ago, Grubbs realized it had the ability to change entire industries. As the former Chairman of the Iowa House Education Committee and the son of a social studies teacher, he began to consider how he might best use virtual reality to impact education, improve the way students learn and inspire a love of learning.
The problem was he did not yet understand how to do virtual reality. To close the gap, he hosted a YPO Peer Learning Event in Dallas, Texas, USA, in September 2016 for 20 YPO members from around the world to share information on this developing industry.
“I know if you get a small group of YPOers together, they bring a vast amount of knowledge,” says Grubbs. “And if everybody agrees to share their intellectual property, then we all leave a lot smarter.”
Creating a VR science curriculum
Learning how to create virtual reality and what programs to use allowed him to fast track his project. Within six months, he had a beta product in a school. Today, VictoryVR has 50 learning modules that transport middle school and high school students to deserts, forests, beaches and even outer space to deepen their understanding of science.
The standards-aligned curriculum units include 240 virtual field trips, interactive games and other experiences to facilitate learning and improve engagement. Each unit is guided by a hologram of America’s national runner up teacher of the year, Wendy Martin, who provides instruction throughout to make the experience more lifelike.
“When students learn in virtual reality, they have a real love and joy of learning,” says Grubbs. “If students could learn to love science, what kind of an impact might that have? And studies show that students retain 30 percent more information when learning in virtual reality.”
Learning to love science
“It makes sense that virtual reality would improve learning,” says Grubbs. “It’s immersive, engaging and experiential.” Armed with more tools to engage their students, teachers can have a bigger impact. Studies show that the inclusion of new technology in education increases student performance.
Students can be fully immersed in their individual experiences, free from distractions from the outside world. They can travel to places faraway and even unreachable places such as the inside of the human body.
Not only can students understand science concepts in an engaging way through virtual reality, but they can also perform an animal dissection in a more humane, affordable way.
Offering viable alternatives
Over six million animals are killed for the dissection industry each year. While dissections are an integral part of science, some students would prefer not to dissect an animal for the sake of science. In the United States, 60 percent of students live in opt-out states and countries like India have imposed a ban on animal dissections. VR dissections provide an alternative non-animal teaching method.
Unlike classroom dissections, VR dissections don’t require a lab setup or actual animals. Students learn the fundamentals of anatomy and complex biological processes in an immersive virtual reality dissection. In VictoryVR’s frog dissection unit, a hologram of Wendy Martin shows students how to use the tools and takes them through the dissection step by step. She also provides additional one-to-one instruction and information throughout the session, further replicating the classroom experience.
“Virtual reality provides the closest substitute to the real thing,” says Grubbs.
Getting started in virtual reality
Virtual reality has the potential to transform industries, cut down on costs, improve efficiency and increase profits. For entrepreneurs looking to enter this market and help reshape a sector, Grubbs offers the following tips:
- Be first to market.
- Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good. Get your product to market.
- Aggressively pursue relationships.
- Rely on your peer network for learning in the space.
And finally, Grubbs reminds entrepreneurs to ‘fail fast.’ If something isn’t working, push it aside and move forward.