Event Capsules, Tool Talk | April 19, 2022

Virtual Reality and Simulation in the Classroom

For our Spring 2022 Lunchtime Seminar on Virtual Reality in the Classroom, ACERT invited several New York-based colleagues who have used virtual reality and simulation in their pedagogy to discuss best practices. We were joined by Jason Moore (Television Radio, & Emerging Media, Brooklyn College), Alexandra Plavskin (Nursing), and Ricardo Miranda (Film & Media).

Jason Moore shared his experience with using immersive virtual reality headsets for online classes. We’ve compiled some takeaways from his fascinating Q&A session regarding VR headset use, its limitations, accessible alternatives, and faculty’s role in troubleshooting complicated technology on the fly. We’ve also posted a recording of the full panelist presentations (without the Q&A sessions) on our YouTube channel for anyone who is interested. Enjoy!

Q: Why use a VR headset as opposed to a 2D virtual space, like Second Life?

A: VR headsets provide a deeper level of immersion, and therefore amplify close, intimate education. That said, 2D social learning environments are also necessary for comfort and accessibility reasons. Some students cannot get the VR tech to work. Good pedagogy around VR should always include virtual presence using a headset and a 2D component like Second Life.

Q: How long should students wear a VR headset? Should they use them for the entire class?

A: VR fatigue is real, and adjustment to VR experiences takes time. Some students can stay in VR spaces for hours, and others can only stay in VR spaces for a few minutes. As many as 10% of VR users experience motion sickness. I keep VR sessions to 30-50 minutes, with 15 minute breaks in between. At the beginning of the semester the sessions are closer to 30 minutes, and at the end of the semester the sessions are closer to 50 minutes, all while keeping track of my students’ comfort levels. I always work on platforms with 2D accessibility, so any student who needs to leave the VR headset environment for any reason can move to the 2D environment without disconnecting from the learning process.

Q: What are the obstacles to widespread VR use in the classroom?

A: This is a highly technical toolset and it requires training for pedagogical use. It would be very valuable for our colleges and administrators to offer training bootcamps taught by professors who have experience using this technology to teach. Like any other technical software, it is crucial for new users to be taught best practices.

Q: What does VR lesson preparation look like? How are lesson plans adapted to the VR classroom?

A: First and foremost, any professor who wants to teach in a VR environment must be an intermediate user of several social VR applications, if not a master of them. We need to be able to help our students troubleshoot the technology as we go. This requires being familiar with the possibilities and restrictions around each platform: how do you log in? What does it mean to create an avatar? How do you move around a virtual space? How do you use the presentation tool on the platform? Once we’re familiar with the most popular VR applications, rewriting our syllabi for VR tools is intuitive. Modifying a lesson plan for VR is not the most difficult part. The challenging part is getting over the myriad of technical obstacles, and being prepared to assist our students during class.

Please see our video below for all three panelist presentations on virtual reality and simulation in teaching!

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