Virtual Reality Helps Bridge the Gap Between Online and In-person Learning

Monday, 22 June 2015 - 3:02PM
Virtual Reality
Monday, 22 June 2015 - 3:02PM
Since the recent surge in virtual reality development, experts from all fields have been eager to study its potential impacts.

Most recently, Conrad Tucker, Assistant Professor of Industrial Engineering and Engineering Design at Penn State, conducted a study to test whether using virtual reality would have a significant impact on online learning.

Tucker selected the Oculus Rift for his purposes, undoubtedly due to its relative inexpensiveness and accessibility. He also fitted participants with a haptic glove, which allows the wearer to simulate the feel of virtual objects. The participant sample consisted of 54 undergraduate engineering students who were tasked with assembling a virtual coffee pot from a number of disparate pieces. Half undertook this task with the help of the virtual reality hardware, while the other half used a simple computer program. The results were unsurprising; the mean completion time for the control group was 49.04 seconds, while the mean time for the group using V.R. was 23.21 seconds - less than half the time. 

"Immersive virtual reality systems like the Oculus Rift have many benefits," said Tucker. "But one of the major ones is that when compared to the non-immersive system, IVR systems give you a much more natural experience. It's like you're actually there."

Tucker is hopeful about the implications of his findings, and he believes they could prove that virtual reality is no mere gimmick, with the headsets and haptics eventually being rolled out to virtual classrooms on a major scale. As Tucker says, "there's little immersive or tactile interaction, and sometimes it's hard for students to engage with the material. IVR systems are a potential solution to that problem... This technology would allow you to collaborate with others all over the world."

But these findings aren't just limited to potentially revolutionizing education. Instead, Tucker believes they are applicable to any field in which online collaboration is either necessary or beneficial, and he hopes to start carrying out similar tests on a global scale soon.

"Moving forward, we'd love to work with students in other countries. Oculus Rift and other similar technologies allow you to sync your devices with others regardless of location and work on the same project. You can always Skype with people around the world, but you don't get the same experience. This technology would allow you to collaborate with others all over the world."
Virtual Reality

Load Comments