VR in EDU – Bringing the Magic to the Masses

VR in EDU: Bringing the Magic to the Masses

Virtual reality and 360° are finally taking the world by storm, providing important and intriguing avenues of learning in EDU. Apps like the New York Times VR and National Geographic make it easy for teachers to inspire students to explore content beyond the classroom.

Tools like augmented reality sign language flashcards are bridging the gap between education accessibility and communication. Most excitingly, these technologies are encouraging students to dream, to explore, to adventure beyond the typical confines of school lecture halls and Kardashian pop culture. How cool is it that climber Alex Honnold, who just completed the most dangerous rope-free solo climb on earth, captured by National Geographic’s VR video crew, is the new hot thing?

When it comes to EDU, the possibilities for VR and AR are endless. The criticism for VR was that it was prohibitively costly to implement, but the sky’s the limit now that interest and popularity for 360° video has taken off. Here are a few ways you can start implementing cost-effective VR and AR ideas in your programs:


Google Cardboard Acceptance Letters

Skidmore College in New York mailed out their acceptance letters this year with a Google Cardboard VR viewer that linked to a novel 360° student life video. It was a fantastic and relatively inexpensive way to add depth to their overall college experience and was the next best thing to an in-person campus tour.

The 360° video combined the traditional campus facility tour with actual student life to showcase the vibrant community admitted students would have access to at Skidmore. It’s a technique that helped prevent melt during Skidmore’s enrollment period.



360° Video Tours on Social

The University of Michigan Ann Arbor did a stellar job on a tour of their survival flight team on Facebook. The tour begins on a helipad and follows the emergency medical team through to take-off. This piece had incredible engagement, reaching prospective medical students and proud Michigan alumni alike.



Students at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design are currently creating a social virtual reality storytelling tool called SocialVR they plan to distribute across campus. The tool allows non-technical users and campus departments to build “personalized immersive experiences” that take the form of everything from lab tours to virtual orientations. VR stories are created out of 360 photos, videos and media hotspots using a simple browser, phone and low-cost camera.



Exploratory VR Resources in the Public Space

Google Arts and Culture released a stunning “Hidden Tour” of the US National Parks on their interactive Arts and Culture 360° platform. In it, virtual learners can take a horseback ride on Bryce Canyon’s breathtaking Navajo Loop, walk through the lava tubes of Hawaii’s volcanoes, and much more.

The Google Arts & Culture platform partners with over 1200 leading museums and archives to bring a wealth of 360° cultural and educational experiences to teachers and students. This is a great choose-your-own-adventure resource for art and history educators.



The Franklin Institute Virtual Reality Museum in Philadelphia commissioned a couple of spaces dedicated entirely to immersive virtual reality, “encountering a blue whale [and] touring the human body.” These immersive experiences are rendered in striking detail and are also available for learners across the globe via the Franklin Institute app. Through the app, virtual visitors can explore incredible, hi-res 360 exhibits such the ocean and Mars without leaving their homes.



Virtual Reality Classrooms

All Things Media (ATM), an immersive solutions company based in northern New Jersey, has developed a useful VR portal that connects students and lecturers from all over the globe in one virtual classroom. In this classroom, student and teacher avatars can walk in and around larger-than-life 3D graphics of the human heart or ancient Greek cities. CEO Robert Spierenburg says the classroom can be used to enhance distance learning for medical schools, architecture programs, history classes and industry conferences. ATM’s VR products are used by clients like McGraw-Hill and Mercedes-Benz.



Finally, the UM3D virtual reality lab at the University of Michigan pushes the envelope in medical imaging technology, allowing researchers to paint a more detailed and interactive picture of their anatomical subjects. Pain researcher Alexandre DaSilva used a colorful, 3D brain at the UM3D lab to study opioid activation during a patient’s migraine attack. DaSilva used VR to study “how our brains make their own pain-killing chemicals during a migraine attack.” The 3D brain allows DaSilva to splice and perceive different colors on PET (positron emission tomography) scan that corresponded to chemical processes happening during the migraine attack.



VR and AR can be used as great motivators for learning and give higher education institutions a competitive edge over others. What tools have you used to start breaking into the VR/AR space? We’d love to hear about them.

Melissa Chua
Melissa Chua
July 31, 2017