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VR for Education: Don't Call it a Revolution

by Gabe Baker

3D/VR technology is on the rise, and there's a tangible sense of excitement from the education community about it. Here at Edorble, we're as excited as anyone about this technology, and our product, a 3D world for online classes and meetings, revolves around it. It's one of our core beliefs that online learning has yet to live up to its promise and potential, and that 3D + VR technology can be one of the drivers that pushes it forward. That said, having endured the laptop/tablet/smartphone/smartboard hype cycles, we're not inclined to throw around dramatic terms like "revolution" or "disruption", and we're duly skeptical towards claims that any particular piece of hardware or software will "change the way people learn".  We also have a healthy skepticism about technology that aims to replace teachers or minimize their role in the learning process.

I'm a former teacher. The hype cycles are dizzying.

VR can be a very solitary, asocial medium because when immersed in a VR headset, you can't actually interact with other people that are in the same room. So, although educational 3D content created for VR is often astoundingly rich, beautiful, and engaging, it usually doesn't allow for "multiplayer" interactions within the virtual environment. In this context, a learner is truly on their own...interaction with others is impossible! This is in contrast to a webpage or a book, which, although not particularly immersive, someone can look at with other people, discussing it and figuring it out in a social learning context. This is why we think the real promise of VR for education is in the multiplayer, networked environments in which people can interact and explore content together. It's using VR to create the virtual classroom of the future, a shared space for a class unhindered by the limitations of physical distance. This is our vision for Edorble.

Will this bring about an educational "revolution"?

To the extent that it will allow more students from around the world to interact with the peers and teachers that can help drive their learning forward, yes.

To the extent that it will give online learners the high quality learning that comes from social interaction, yes.

To the extent that it will empower gifted teachers to do what they've done best for centuries, for students that otherwise wouldn't get the opportunity because of distance or some other barrier, yes.

But we'd rather not call this a revolution. This is education coming home.

Feel free to give the beta of Edorble for PC/Mac a try by claiming a world at Our alpha for Oculus Rift comes out soon.