Chances are, you’ve been tracking virtual reality as the next big thing in e-learning, for some time now. Having said that, the world of e-learning is filled with emerging technologies that are transforming the industry. Where do virtual reality and immersive learning fit in?
VR technology has been around for decades, including VR in education research though it’s gained traction relatively recently. It’s not yet achieved its full potential, owing to certain factors. (Although there’s every chance these will be addressed in the years ahead.)
But first… What is VR-powered e-learning and how is it different from “traditional” e-learning?
Virtual reality (VR) is the most immersive form of e-learning. It provides a unique learning environment, delivering VR learning experiences that are as close as possible to the real world. It creates an interactive, 3D environment that allows your learners to interact with the course content and real-life simulations in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. VR content makes learning more immersive, thus greatly improving learner engagement. It creates a much higher level of practice opportunities. It gives learners a safe space in which to take risks. Learners can collaborate with each other and explore the 3D world together.
Why isn’t virtual reality ready for e-learning?
Not fully developed technology
Since the technology isn’t fully developed yet, VR in education research doesn’t offer a uniform experience across devices, networks, and geographies (as it should!). This makes it difficult to use on a widespread basis. The hardware is bulky enough to make transportation a challenge, making remote learning difficult. As VR technology advances, this situation is bound to improve rapidly.
Difficulty using for long periods
When users engage in the immersive environment for prolonged periods, they tend to experience cognitive overload. It can lead to headaches or general discomfort and reduce focus. For all these reasons, it’s hard to stay immersed in a virtual reality learning environment for long periods of time. This is a problem since the major benefit of immersive learning using VR is that you can spend more time practicing a particular skill. This becomes impractical and inefficient.
3D character design limitations
Due to current technical limitations, it’s tough to create realistic 3D character design and visuals. And yet realism is key to maintaining a constant level of engagement. When the design falls just shy of realism, the effect of ‘uncanniness’ can cause users to become distressed.
The development of VR-based educational content can be costly and time-consuming, and the potential benefits of VR in education are limited in many use cases. As a result, potential ROI could be curtailed or even eliminated if the material is not properly planned from the outset.
So, is virtual reality ready to revolutionize e-learning? Or not quite yet?
There’s no doubt that there are significant benefits of VR in education. Virtual reality has the potential to completely revolutionize e-learning. Unfortunately, because of these drawbacks, it’s not quite there yet. Wide-scale adoption is difficult. However, these challenges are steadily being mitigated thanks to technological advances. In the meantime, Hornbill FX is working to deliver interactive VR learning experiences through other immersive technologies, using virtual reality only wherever appropriate.
Deciding whether to opt for a traditional e-learning solution or one supported by virtual reality is not an easy choice. Perhaps the best way to look at it is to consider VR a valuable tool in the arsenal, not a replacement for traditional game-based e-learning. VR may be the future – or even the present – of e-learning for some industries, but it may not be right for you, right now.
Talk to our experts to understand whether VR is the right choice for you. Contact Hornbill FX today!