How do you incorporate VR in the classroom?
As we’ve previously discussed, Virtual Reality (VR) learning involves creating immersive virtual simulations that allow learners to interact with digital environments, characters, and objects. First things first– you don’t need a Virtual Reality headset (or HMD, head-mounted display) to start using VR in your classroom. Laptops, desktop computers, and mobile devices like tablets or phones allow your students to experience low immersion VR. In low immersion, students navigate a simulated environment on their device’s screen while still being aware of their physical surroundings. In high immersion–with a headset on–students only perceive the virtual world, so this type of scenario will require making the classroom as safe as possible for students who are navigating the simulated environment.
Curious to use VR? Bring bitesize VR learning into your lessons
VR learning experiences are exciting and engaging, and studies show that immersive learning decreases learner anxiety. However, navigating an immersive environment can be physically and mentally demanding. As a general rule, the VR element of any given lesson should occupy 15-30 minutes. You can structure the rest of the lesson around the VR experience as you normally would.
Here’s a sample lesson structure for a 50-minute class:
- 5 minutes: Introduce your topic and get students curious about it. Ask students what they already know about the topic.
- 10 minutes: Ask students to research more about the topic and then share any facts that grab their interest.
- 15 minutes: Students engage with the VR learning material. Encourage students to actively discuss their learning with one another as it’s occurring in the virtual environment.
- 10 minutes: Allow students to process their learning through a discussion about the VR experience and the learning content. Encourage students to make connections with their own research from earlier in the class.
- 10 minutes: Students produce a written or recorded (i.e., on Flip) reflection on their learning. They share these reflections with others in class. The class asks what else they would like to learn about the topic in their next lesson.
Download your planning guide for VR learning here!
As you get more savvy and comfortable using VR, try mixing it up:
- Start off class with a VR-driven mindfulness activity, like meditating together in a naturalistic setting.
- Use VR for a team-building exercise where you collectively solve a puzzle, for example, to build camaraderie and collaboration before a major group assignment.
- Allow students who have already completed their work to take a virtual trip as a brain break or moment of self-directed learning. This might involve a virtual hike in the Andes or a virtual excursion to Shanghai, as per the student’s choice.
- End class with a fun VR game experience as a reward for students’ hard work.
What are the key elements of a good VR experience?
As with so much in the classroom, it’s important to assess what you hope to achieve by using VR as a pedagogical tool. Establishing your own intentions and articulating them to your students will allow you to make the most of VR learning.
VR is a great way to promote equitable, engaged learning for all of your students. To make sure your students are getting the most out of VR:
- Good lighting, ventilation, and access to water are foundational components of a safe VR learning environment.
- Make sure the physical environment is open and free of any tripping hazards or otherwise. This is mainly for students wearing VR headsets.
- Create a supportive environment where students help one another to set up and troubleshoot their devices when needed.
- Outline and share a protocol for sanitizing devices as per hygiene concerns and guidelines.
- Make sure all students understand how to navigate the VR world. Provide extra time for students to get accustomed to using their VR devices before going full-on into the VR-related lesson.
- Carefully assess and plan how a given VR learning experience will complement your teaching and enhance your students’ learning.
Lastly, check in with your students! Do they need a screen break? Especially in a high immersion setting, students may feel disoriented after spending time in VR and will need a moment to reorient themselves in their physical environment. Encourage students to take breaks, hydrate, and close their eyes to allow themselves a rest from the VR experience. Creating an authentic dialogue and mindful practices around the use of VR is a great way to foster a healthy relationship with technology.
How can teachers use VR in the classroom?
VR can have so many applications to your everyday classroom experience and is suitable for learning across a range of topics.
- Virtual field trips: Take your students on a virtual field trip to different parts of the world or to historical locations. For example, they could explore ancient Egyptian tombs, walk through the streets of Paris, or visit the Great Wall of China. A good place to start is Geo VR, or Google Earth Education.
If you don’t have access to VR, you can still try out virtual field trips using Google’s Arts and Culture Expeditions.
- Science simulations: Allow students to experiment with science simulations in VR. They can explore the solar system, learn about plant biology, or observe chemical reactions. Check out resources like Discovery Education’s Virtual Labs or VR Science Simulations by Veative. (Veative has lots of 360 video resources in its cloud library.)
- Historical reenactments: Use VR to recreate historical events or periods. Students could witness the American Revolution or visit the Colosseum in ancient Rome. Check out VR experiences like TimeLooper.
- Language immersion: Use VR to immerse students in foreign language environments. They could practice speaking and listening to a language in a simulated environment. ImmerseMe is a great example of this.
- Virtual art galleries and museums: Use VR to create an art gallery or museum experience for students. They could learn about famous artists and their works while experiencing them in a three-dimensional environment. Try out the Louvre’s VR experience of the Mona Lisa.
- Collaborative activities: Get students to work together on fun VR activities like creating art with Multibrush or Tilt Brush. You can also solve puzzles together using Cubism.
- Create 3D learning environments: CoSpaces is a great place to start having fun with VR.
VR learning experiences can transform your classroom and your teaching. Of course, it takes time to find the right resources and implementation strategies for your needs. Have fun experimenting with new resources!
As always, Meg Languages is here to help! Check out our VR experience for learning about Chinese culture, called Culture Quest.
Luke is a passionate multilingual educator, curriculum architect, and culture enthusiast dedicated to fostering linguistic and cultural connections. With 15 years of experience teaching French and Russian to learners of all ages, he recognizes the transformative power of language learning in nurturing self-discovery, personal growth, and intellectual curiosity. As an Education Specialist at Meg, Luke’s mission is to inspire learners to become active global citizens who embrace diversity and forge meaningful communities. By harnessing the power of languages, culture, and technology, he envisions a more interconnected and compassionate world driven by empathy and appreciation.
Ash is an educator, researcher, and lifelong learner who’s taught in high schools and universities in Asia, United States, and Australia. She is passionate about leveraging technology to improve student outcomes and student inclusion. Ash leads the Operations and Innovation teams at Meg. She and her team aim to ignite students’ curiosity and take them on a journey to explore the wonderful intersections of languages, culture, and technology.