How Virtual Reality is changing higher education

Do you want to visit the planet Mars, but without leaving the comfort of your student room? Do you want to go on an underwater trip without getting wet or going back to the time of World War II, but without a time machine? All of this may seem like a sci-fi movie, but with the little help of virtual and augmented reality (VR / AR) technologies, traveling to inaccessible places and traveling through history is becoming a reality.

You do not believe this? Software engineers and IT experts are constantly designing new technologies used to advance education. Progress is extremely fast so acceptance of new technologies is required.

However, the need of the students themselves, who are accustomed to new technologies, imposes the educational institutions to find innovative ways of organizing the teaching.

In recent years, virtual reality has played a huge role in modern education at all levels. Many higher education institutions around the world use this technology to provide students with new and unique learning experiences.

Virtual field trips around the world, gaining knowledge and experience while visiting amazing locations without being physically there, meeting and interacting with students from other countries, simulating surgical interventions…The possibilities of virtual reality in education are extraordinary.


Motivation for better solutions

Itai Stern, professor of strategy and academic director of the INSEAD (Outstanding Learning Initiative), says that the academic community agrees that virtual reality has literally changed higher education by offering three-dimensional experiences.

“Virtual reality puts students in the right place in the right situation. We take students on a mission to Mars when we work on team dynamics. Students go on a three-dimensional journey to the Red Planet where many things happen and return to the classroom where they analyze and discuss different events.”

The professor believes that when students see and hear firsthand what is happening, and experience the events as if they were present there, they will be more motivated to find a solution to a particular problem.

In fact, the future of education lies in adapting to the digital age. In addition to adapting virtual reality, augmented reality also applies. Learning platforms based on these technologies have been positively evaluated by students.

Combined Virtual and Augmented Reality (VAR) technology facilitates three-dimensional learning through the use of virtual environments that replicate those environments that are not physically accessible to higher education students, through 3D models or 360º interactive videos.


Investment for the future

Virtual reality technology helps students more effectively absorb concepts that improve their ability to retain information, and as a result, students become more engaged and active in learning.

According to a study published in Education and Information Technologies, evaluation of five semesters (or 2.5 years) in a purpose-designed laboratory for the adoption of virtual reality technology in higher education, showed a 250 percent increase in the number of students during the evaluation period, and 71.5 percent of the students reported improved learning outcomes.

These results signal to higher education institutions that the right infrastructure for VAR technology is a healthy educational investment for the future.


Top 5 Universities in the USA using VR / AR

Here are 5 universities that already use virtual and augmented reality in their teaching to enrich the experience of students:


  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Offers programs for individuals interested in establishing a career in Augmented and Virtual Reality. The MIT Center for Advanced Virtuality pioneers innovation with technologies of virtuality including XR (VR, AR, MR)


  • Stanford University

Offers a variety of specializations and heavy AR/VR coursework in various disciplines. Pronounced ‘karma’, the CCRMA Virtual + Augmented Reality Design Lab conducts research on the artful design of virtual, augmented and mixed reality (VR, AR, XR) for music. The VHIL studies the psychological and behavioral effects of AR/VR. The Medical Neurosurgical Simulation and Virtual Reality Center opened in 2016 using 3D VR technology across the neurosurgery clinics, operating room, and classroom.


  • University of Southern California

Heavy in VR labs to enhance coursework. The USC Institute for Creative Technologies houses the Medical Virtual Reality Lab (MedVRLab), Mixed Reality Lab (MxR), and the ICT Virtual Humans Group. Areas of specialization for MedVR Lab include Game-Based Rehabilitation, Virtual Humans, Neurocognitive Assessment and Training, and Mental Behavioral Health.


  • New York University

All programs can participate in the NYC Media Lab and Future Reality Lab, which explores how people will use future Mixed Reality technologies to better communicate and interact with each other when they are in the same physical space. Projects include reimagining the theatrical performance to develop novel uses of VAR technology for health and wellness.


  • Rochester Institute of Technology

All programs have access to RIT’s Frameless Labs located at the RIT MAGIC Center. Frameless Labs provides a space for the Extended Reality (XR) community to collaborate with the goal to bring attention to research, innovation, and artistic creation in the fields of VAR technology.

Virtual reality has the potential to change the way future generations learn and prepare for the future. It is perfect for personalized learning and can potentially bridge the gap between face-to-face teaching and current shortcomings in distance learning.



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