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Virtual Reality May Offer a Solution to the Shortage of Teachers Worldwide

Virtual reality or VR is already a popular technology in certain fields, such as entertainment, industries and medicine. However, new research in the Netherlands may hold a key to unlocking VR’s immense potential in the field of education. According to Stan van Ginkel, a researcher and lecturer belonging to the Utrecht University of Applied Sciences, specialised VR glasses could reduce the effect of teacher shortages.

How Virtual reality came into the picture

Van Ginkel started looking into the effectiveness of current learning environments five years ago while pursuing a PhD at the Wageningen University. At first, he had no plans to incorporate cutting-edge technology in his field of study. Therefore, during the initial phase, he chose to focus on student feedback that he deemed were closely tied to the design choices for learning environments.

Van Ginkel set up an experiment to see the difference in impact when the feedback was provided by a teacher as opposed to the students’ peers. That study concluded that feedback from teachers carried the most weight. The researcher knew that personally providing feedback to each student is an impossible task. This is when he started looking for alternative forms of feedback that would cause the same impact without overstressing the limited teaching staff at school.

Virtual reality feedback quality rivals actual teach feedback quality

Van Ginkel felt that virtual reality and other technology combined can simulate real-life situations and provide feedback accordingly. He set up a VR lab where he could conduct experiments with the presentation skills course tech that already existed.

Learning to give a presentation with VR Glasses. Image source: hu.nl

He had students perform a presentation at two different periods of the course to gauge the development of their skills over time. Students were divided into two groups, where one group received feedback from a teacher, while the other group’s feedback came from the VR technology.

The scientist claims that the results of the experiment were far better than they anticipated. Students belonging to the group that received VR feedback said that they had never before received such a high level of precision and detail when it came to their feedback. The first group, on the other hand, claimed they valued what the teacher said, due to its constructive and positive character.

The future for VR and education

Van Ginkel, along with his technological partner CoVince Adventurous Learning, has now developed a mobile version of the VR system. The technology can rate a presentation based on a few factors, such as eye contact, gestures, postures and the voice of the student. While the initial tech required additional sensors besides the VR glasses, students now need a smartphone and a pair of VR glasses to practise their presentation skills at home at any time.

The researcher claims that presenting skills are important not just during education, but even later on. With this technology, students can start practising their presentation skills long before it comes up in their curriculum.

While VR glasses in Dutch education is nothing new, the scope is often limited. For instance, one technology allows geography students to peer inside a simulated active volcano. According to Van Ginkel, his technology has far-reaching consequences and may solve the issue of severe teacher shortages.

 

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