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Virtual Reality in the Classroom

A guide to using the Virtual Reality resources available at OISE Library.

What is virtual reality?

Virtual Reality, or VR, is the use of computer technology to create a simulated environment which can be explored in 360 degrees. Unlike traditional interfaces, VR places the user inside the virtual environment to give an immersive experience. 

To allow this feeling of presence, a VR headset is used, such as the ones available for borrow at OISE Library. Other notable examples of VR headsets include Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR,  HTC ViveGoogle Daydream View, or Google Cardboard. These headsets remove vision of the real world and provide video to each eye allowing for depth of vision. This technology is then supported by head and body tracking to connect the virtual world to what the user is seeing. Stay tuned, you can soon borrow VR equipment from the OISE Library!

Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality, Mixed Reality, and 360-Degree

 

While the term virtual reality may be used to describe different types of immersive experiences or altered reality experiences, it is not the same as augmented reality.

1. Virtual Reality

  • uses VR headsets or closed head-mounted displays (HMDS) to completely insulate and transpose the user to an alternative world

2. Augmented Reality

  • adds or supplements to our existing reality with digital objects and digital object overlays
  • enhances our presence by 'augmenting' reality 

3. Mixed or Merged Reality

  • uses holographic lens to converge VR and AR where virtual objects interact with real-world objects

4. 360-Degree 

  • creates 360-degree panorama photos or videos
  • uses 360-degree cameras to stitch together multiple images 

Note: In its simplest form, 360-degree is not VR. However, 360-degree experiences are used in VR where users view 360-degree content within a VR headset. VR utilizes sensors to track the user's head movements to create an illusion that he/she is an alternate world with no visibility of the real world. With 360-degree content, users are not fully immersed because they can look up, down, and around but not move forward. 

To read more on the comparison:

VR in the classroom

Image credit from EdTech4Beginners.com, licensed under Creative Commons usage

Virtual reality is an emerging technology in classrooms to supplement the teaching of a subject or topic to in order to ‘feel' the content. Beyond engagement, VR allows students to explore, experience, and become immersed in virtual environments. There are two ways virtual reality can be used in the classroom: a student explores a virtual environment using a computer, keyboard, and mouse; or a student explores using some input device, e.g. controller, virtual reality headset. The latter set-up fully immerses students using head mounted display (HMD).

This tool can be used for any subject and gives educators an avenue to explore with learners as well as engage with a variety of learning styles. For instance, students can walk through a rainforest and discover different animals and vegetation. The technology also offers large scope for design and coding. VR can be incorporated into the classroom curriculum to teaches personal and social skills breaking down barriers of location and communication.