Virtual Reality In Higher Education: What’s the Status?

Virtual reality is transforming higher education in Australia, and the wave is just beginning. In contrast to augmented reality, which is more about overlaying virtual content onto physical objects and places, virtual reality is usually a more immersive experience, letting you interact with virtual objects within an entirely virtual environment. Many universities around the world are leveraging both virtual reality and augmented reality to help enhance the learning experience. Here’s how.

Virtual reality for self-directed learning

At La Trobe University in Melbourne, teachers are using virtual headsets to help students learn about human anatomy[1] as part of a 12-week program.

“La Trobe anatomy students learn from working with skeletons, models, VR, human specimens and AR,” said Dr Aaron McDonald, Head of the Anatomy Discipline, in a press release. “Augmented Reality allows students to visualise and manipulate anatomical structures and develop a deep understanding. You can superimpose anatomical structures over a peer who can perform movements along with the app, to better understand muscle function. It is a great resource for both team work and self-directed learning.”

What’s more, students can take the technology with them anywhere and continue to explore and learn, whether they’re in class or not. The university is already seeing positive learning outcomes, with many La Trobe students reporting that the technology has helped them improved their grades.

Head sets for trial and error

At the University of Adelaide, students are learning about animal handling through VR training, which has been an essential resource as coronavirus restrictions have limited agriculture education options. In one immersive experience, students donned a headset and found themselves in a yard full of Droughtmaster cattle, instructed to move and draft animals to understand flight zones. If they stood in the wrong position, they would be kicked. Unconventional as it may sound, this provides a unique opportunity to deepen learning.

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