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VR in the K-12 Classroom

A couple of months ago on the blog, we covered all sorts of topics related to virtual reality. We discussed VR in the humanities, recent research related to VR (and AR), excellent educational VR (and AR) games, and even VR’s role in helping older adults live more happy and healthy lives! However, one thing we didn’t cover back then is the use of VR in the K-12 classroom. Since virtual reality is a quickly evolving technology that also plays a role in the burgeoning educational metaverse, there’s a lot to fill you in on. So come along, dear readers, as we investigate the state of VR in the K-12 classroom!

via Tenor

If you want to join in on the conversation on K-12 and virtual reality, we invite you to tag us on Facebook or Twitter! Let us know if there are any emerging K-12 VR applications we’re missing here.

The need for immersive digital learning tools

The need for high-quality and immersive digital learning tools was amplified by the start of the global pandemic in 2020, but it existed prior to times of lockdowns and social distancing too. Today, educators still need ways to reach and engage students in their classrooms, whether in-person or online! VR offers solutions to some of the limitations of the pandemic, such as virtual field trips and travel. 

While right now, the use of VR and AR is more common in higher ed institutions, that’s not because K-12 institutions don’t have an interest in implementing the nascent technology. Ellysse Dick, a policy analyst for The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation found that “interest in AR/VR for education had already been rising prior to 2020, when schools and universities adopted digital learning tools mostly out of necessity. According to the report, 85 percent of public school teachers reported seeing ‘great value’ in AR/VR ed-tech platforms in a 2019 survey.”

There are a couple of barriers keeping VR out of the K-12 mainstream, however. Mainly, the cost and quality of equipment. With the cost of a single headset ranging from $399-$999, many school districts currently don’t have the budgets to accommodate high-quality VR learning at scale. Also, the task of integrating VR learning into existing curriculums is still a question mark for many education professionals. Educational VR games aren’t as common as commercial VR games. 

To combat these obstacles, Dick is petitioning policymakers in Congress to direct the Department of Education to invest in VR and AR for higher ed and K-12 education. In her appeal, Dick writes, “AR/VR solutions can enhance classroom experiences and expand opportunities at all levels of learning. The federal government should support further innovation by investing in research, skill-building, content development, and equitable adoption of immersive technologies.” Throughout her research, Dick notes the many benefits of VR for K-12 and higher ed students alike. Among them are more opportunities for STEM and humanities education, the development of soft skills, and individualized learning solutions for students with disabilities. 

While it might be a while before VR in K-12 schools is widely adopted, there’s no doubt it’s packed with potential – recent studies demonstrate this. Moreover, though it’s not yet a classroom staple, VR is being used in some schools today. Next, let’s take a look at the VR experiences used in some K-12 classrooms currently, and the companies working to expand VR learning opportunities for all. 

VR in today’s classrooms

Class VR

Class VR is an all-in-one educational virtual reality program for schools. It provides classes with both hardware and software, including headsets, curriculum-aligned resources, and a teacher portal. ClassVR also has grant and funding opportunities for schools in the US and UK!

Kai XR

KaiXR is on a mission to make virtual reality and augmented reality accessible to everyone. One way they are closing the immersive learning gap is by making their platform available on all devices like smartphones, though it can also be used with VR headsets. The platform’s main focuses are virtual field trips and contributing to an impactful educational metaverse

BioDive

BioDive, a learning game for middle schoolers aligned to Next Generation Science Standards, combines a VR adventure with journaling. In the game, “Students take on the role of marine biologists investigating the delicate ecosystems of venomous marine snails. Throughout their expedition, students observe, discover, and hypothesize about abiotic and biotic factors that impact marine biodiversity.”

Floreo

Floreo is a platform that teaches social, behavioral, communication, and life skills to neurodiverse users. The story-based scenarios available on Floreo allow individuals with autism, ADHD, anxiety, and other neurodiverse conditions to practice social interactions in a safe and immersive environment. 

Filament Games

While educational VR experiences may be few and far between compared to commercial VR games, we’re an educational game developer working to broaden the horizons of educational VR! In our portfolio, you can find a variety of educational VR content, such as Breaking Boundaries, our Webby award-winning game about the lives of scientists Grace Hopper, Marie Curie, and Jane Goodall. VR Explorations, another VR project we worked on with Publications International, are Android and iOS-compatible and allow users to travel from a farm to space to inside the human body to deep under the sea, and beyond! And don’t forget about our upcoming sandbox robotics game, RoboCo, which will launch on VR in 2023.

For even more on the ways VR technology is emerging in K-12 classrooms, check out this panel from the ASU+GSV Summit:

Toward a virtual future

Though there are still challenges to conquer before VR goes mainstream in the K-12 sphere, the potential is evident, and new, innovative applications for VR in the K-12 classroom show up on a regular basis. For example, virtual college visits for high school seniors!

As we wait for VR to become more widely accessible for schools, there are plenty of learning opportunities in the metaverse for K-12 students that don’t require expensive equipment or total curriculum reconfiguration. Our friends at Roblox are among those leading that charge through Roblox Education and the Roblox Community Fund, and we’re happy to be a part of it as Roblox developers ourselves!

If you want to create an educational VR experience in Roblox or another platform, you’re in the right place. Get in touch with us today for a free consultation and let’s start building the impactful, immersive learning experience that K-12 students need!

More on K-12 game-based learning:

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