VR revolution in digital education

Author: Erica Giovanetto, EU Project Manager at Chambre de Commerce Belgo-Italienne (CCBI)

As mentioned in President von der Leyen’s State of the Union Letter of Intent on September 9th 2022, “We will continue looking at new digital opportunities and trends, such as the metaverse.” Metaverse is one of the pressing challenges ahead of us, and virtual reality (VR) technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach practice-based skills. For this reason, the European Union has funded, through its Horizon Europe programme, research on the use of VR in medical training and therapy, as well as the use of virtual reality in creating immersive educational experiences. By creating immersive virtual environments, VR allows students to gain hands-on experience in a variety of fields without the need for physical proximity or expensive equipment.

One of the main benefits of VR in teaching practice skills is the ability to overcome geographical distance. Traditional in-person training often requires students to travel to specific locations, which can be costly and time-consuming. With VR, students can access training from anywhere, as long as they have the necessary equipment and internet connection. It makes it possible for students in remote or underserved areas to access the same level of training as those in more urban areas.

Another benefit of VR in teaching practice skills is the ability to create realistic simulations of real-world scenarios, which allows students to gain hands-on experience in a safe and controlled environment, whose major benefit is to allow them to make mistakes and learn from them without the fear of negative consequences. The fear of failure can be a barrier to learning, as students may be hesitant to try new things or take risks, while a risk-free environment provided by VR technology can lead to increased confidence and self-esteem, as students can see that they can succeed and improve.

Furthermore, learning in a risk-free environment can also be beneficial in fields where the consequences of failure are severe. For example, in the medical field, a mistake can have life-or-death consequences. By allowing medical students to practice surgeries in a virtual operating room, they can gain experience and confidence in a safe environment, before performing surgeries in real life. Similarly, pilots can train in a simulated flight cockpit before flying real planes, reducing the risk of accidents.

However, there are also some downsides to consider when it comes to VR in teaching practice skills. One of the main drawbacks is the high entry cost. VR equipment and software can be expensive, which can make it difficult for schools and training programs to adopt the technology. Additionally, the cost of creating and maintaining virtual environments can be high.

Another downside is that VR technology is still relatively new and there is a lack of research on its effectiveness in teaching practice-based skills. While there have been some promising studies, more research is needed to fully understand the potential of VR in education.

In conclusion, while VR technology has the potential to revolutionize the way we teach practice-based skills, it is important to consider the high entry cost and the lack of research on its effectiveness. Nevertheless, the ability of VR to overcome geographical distance and provide realistic simulations makes it a valuable tool for educators and trainers to consider.