The Future of Online Classroom with Virtual Reality

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Online learning is an emerging method of education, a response of distance learning schools to keep up with the latest technologies available. Many education experts believe that online learning will be more popular, especially for higher education. This article aims to discuss the future of the online classroom and the possibility of virtual reality augmenting the whole online classroom experience.

Current State of Online Learning  

Modern online learning usually involves traditional teacher and student interaction conducted through devices that use the internet such as smartphones and computers. Another form of online learning is sometimes called "asynchronous" learning – where the instructor sends learning materials through online means. Students can access these materials anytime and are expected to study them. Usually, schools have their own website where students can join forums to collaborate and ask questions. The ubiquitous e-mail system is also used for communication.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, online learning was already used in distance learning education and in post-graduate education (e.g. masters and doctorate). Many post-graduate students taking up master's degrees or doctoral degrees engage in online learning as they have day jobs or have other activities. The use of online learning is more convenient and can be less costly. 

Why is online learning growing? 

As the world enters the digital age, online learning presents more advantages for those who wish to acquire education – the top benefit involves convenience that they can learn in the safety and comfort of their homes. Time also plays an advantage as the educational material can be easily acquired, as long as a stable internet connection is present, of course.

Most prestigious universities, colleges, and schools offer a form of online learning for post-graduate studies like master's degrees and doctoral degrees. Lectures on mostly theoretical matters are delivered online, while some degrees adopt a hybrid approach where physical presence is only necessary for laboratory classes. At AVU, we make sure that our students get the best online education experience and for that we have appointed the most experienced and elite online university staff.

Prestigious universities in the USA that offer fully online master's degrees continue to grow. These Ivy League universities offer online courses and online degrees, with some offering certificate-level courses for free (open access), making education more accessible. Even Harvard University offered 24 fully online graduate programs in 2020, a critical sign that the popularity of online learning is growing.

Benefits of Online Learning for Master's Students 

  • Flexibility in time – Online learning can allow the student to access educational materials at the time most conducive or convenient to them. The need to commute long distances after work to get to the institution is also removed.
  • Variety of programs – Master's students learning online may include other courses that they could learn to supplement their curriculum. While not all institutions offer this, many prestigious universities and colleges believe in the academic freedom of students.
  • Interactive feedback – Many institutions offer online learning with online quizzes that are interactive in nature. Feedback is given immediately and the student can catch up on which areas are necessary to be improved. This reduces the stress and workload of both student and instructor.
  • Visiting Instructors – While this advantage is not exactly exclusive to online learning, some advanced fields of study do not have enough experts worldwide. Thru online means, experts can be invited to lecture the students without the hassle and expense of physical travel.

For now, online learning is still mostly anchored on the traditional teacher-student interaction. Newer forms of interactive learning are emerging, one of them being virtual reality. 

Advantages of VR in Online Education  

What is Virtual Reality (VR)? Virtual reality describes a three-dimensional computer rendered environment that can be interacted with by the user. Imagine 3D video games on a screen but this time you are "inside" it as its world is what you see with your eyes. The user is immersed virtually in this environment and is able to manipulate objects present in the virtual environment. On a physical level, this is done using VR headsets that covers the eyes and ears of the wearer.

It's a new way to collaborate remotely across the world, through the power of virtual reality. And today, we're excited to announce the integration of VR even more deeply into AVU students' everyday online study, becoming one of the very few universities in the world to offer virtual reality technology. 

Educational apps have also made their way to the VR app markets. Many of these apps are targeted at young users to allow them to learn basic education topics like the human body, basic math, and geography. It is not long until tech enthusiasts develop apps for higher learning. Apps specifically designed for online learning are also beginning to be introduced gradually to the market. For our students, we plan to use Horizon Workrooms on Oculus, allowing our students to virtually engage. 

In the field of online education, VR has great potential to elevate the learning experience. Simulation-based VR for learning offers good engagement and interactivity. Here are some advantages of VR for online learning:

  • Interactive: Students can interact with the objects and learn about them. This includes situations that cannot be done physically due to the accompanying dangers (e.g. risky science experiments.)
  • Better Spatial Ability: Students have a better sense of place with the use of VR technology.
  • Lesser Cost in Some Aspects: VR technology can allow laboratories and other difficult learning environments to be "accessed" by the students without the associated real-life risks. This could reduce costs associated with materials gathering and safety expenditures. Master programs generally deal with advanced tasks that could require lots of training; VR makes this training more accessible.
  • Engaging: Instead of listening or reading long slabs of texts and trying to imagine how it's done, online learners can virtually perform the tasks and learn them as if they're doing it.

VR headsets are also becoming more and more common as manufacturers continue to produce more. While it is still generally costly, it is notable that all mainstream computer-related technology improves and becomes relatively cheaper over time. 

Conclusion 

In summary, virtual reality is an effective way to transform learning and take it beyond the traditional online learning experience. With benefits such as improved retention, experiential learning, and enhanced engagement, adopting virtual learning in online education can revolutionize how online programs are performed, including master's programs.  

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