With technology advancing, it’s no surprise that colleges want to use it to enhance their curriculum. Virtual reality (VR) can provide a unique learning experience so it’s attractive to many. However, preparing for it comes with many considerations. Check out the necessary steps to integrate VR in schools.

1. Calculate the Cost

While most schools are likely aware of the upfront cost of VR, a thorough cost analysis is still essential. For example, Apple’s new Vision Pro VR headset has a price tag of $3,499, making it among the most expensive on the market. It comes with many unique features that could enhance education, but it may not be accessible to all.

The price of maintenance and use varies. Basing the estimate on the expenses of other institutions is not enough — they must factor in specifics like the number of devices, purpose and potential benefits. It may be worth slowly integrating it to see how it pays off before fully committing.

They must also determine how to offset the purchase through funding, increased tuition or program fundraisers. Community colleges and minority-serving institutions are typically significantly underfunded, meaning they don’t have the same access to VR as other schools. They often require extra funding through partnerships or programs to be able to integrate it into their curriculum. Any school desiring successful VR integration should ensure the investment will pay off. If you work in higher education, Axon Park has created a guide for securing grants, which may be helpful as you consider funding options.

2. Establish Safety Precautions

Safety precautions are essential for the integration of any technology, and virtual reality (VR) is no exception. While using VR itself is generally safe, it’s important to consider the potential vulnerabilities in schools’ virtual security due to its online capabilities and connection to the network.

Protecting student data and the integrity of each device should be a priority for any institution. Safety education, class moderation, student monitoring and techniques such as cloud filtering are advanced digital safety tools for VR in schools. Before integration, professionals should improve system protection and educate classes on basic security practices.

There are also various restrictions when using most headsets. For example, even though Meta recently announced that they will allow users aged 10+, only people 13 years old or over can use Apple’s Vision Pro. While most students will meet the requirements, taking such things into account is important.

3. Prepare Professors

A professor’s ability to properly utilize VR content is directly tied to the adoption rates of the technology. They need to know how to use the hardware and navigate the content well because their class relies on them to do so. For this reason, many are often wary of integrating it into their lesson plans — they feel unprepared to guide others.

Usability is a significant factor in successful adoption. The user interface (UI) should be simple enough that professors can quickly adapt to it and teach their students how to do the same. In addition, educators must be prepared to handle common troubleshooting challenges and frequently asked questions to keep the class on track.

Moderation is another key component of VR in schools. Most people attending higher education institutions are likely mature enough to use it without issue, but it’s still possible for them to get off-track. Their professor must act as a moderator and keep them focused.

It’s as easy as raising their voice or pausing teachings during a regular lesson, but they must adapt to VR. How do you get students to behave in a digital landscape? Prepared mitigation strategies and interventions are necessary.

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4. Create Content

Using VR in schools isn’t as easy as turning them on and starting a lesson. In reality, creating interactive content requires a team of people to align software with lesson plans. For example, media producers, instructional designers and software engineers have to build audio, visual aspects and UI elements.

Tailored lessons are necessary on top of the basic digital landscape required for classes. The purpose of integrating this technology into higher education is to enhance learning, so the experience should reflect that. Schools must prepare educational material and an environment aligning with the class, as well as choose an immersive technology platform provider with capabilities that complement their objectives.

5. Prepare Students

Schools should be wary of assuming every student will know how to operate the new technology; most students will likely need a guide or an in-class training session to get used to it.

Although most people consider younger generations “digital natives,” factors like gender, race and class are systemic barriers preventing accessibility for many. On top of that, plenty of institutions have students who aren’t as technologically savvy. Educators should prepare to take questions and help them understand the basics.

6. Make VR Accessible

Accessibility concerns arise for those with disabilities or sensory issues. Students who have hearing or vision impairments may need additional assistance to interact in a virtual setting. Also, VR headsets can be uncomfortable for some. Meta has addressed this issue, making the Quest 3’s optic profile around 40% slimmer than the Quest 2.

Still, schools must take steps to ensure the experience is accessible for everyone. For example, they could add captions or set up guided learning activities. They must also consider those who can’t participate. Shorter VR experiences, accessible alternatives or pre-recorded material could work. Everyone needs the same access to educational material, even if it’s in a different format.

7. Plan for Maintenance

Maintenance may not be frequent, but it’s necessary. Someone has to be responsible for changing batteries, charging headsets, and updating software. Also, devices need to be fixed if someone accidentally damages them. Schools should budget for this to be safe.

8. Create Supplemental Material

VR in schools provides a unique and engaging learning experience. While it’s mostly beneficial, it also may put students in a challenging spot — for example, they can’t take notes when wearing headsets and holding controllers. Also, they may be unable to access the lesson after it’s over. Depending on the education platform, this may come with varying levels of accessibility.

To ensure they adapt to the different learning style, educators should consider providing supplemental material. They could give out a written summary of the experience, schedule additional reading, provide their own notes or assign relevant work.

9. Plan to Measure Effectiveness

Metrics on the effects of VR in the classroom could help establish the success of the investment. It could also draw potential students. Schools should prepare methods to track how using it impacts students’ scores and engagement.

For example, Arizona State University’s Dreamscape Learn curriculum saw biology lab students get grades 9% higher than their peers without access to the technology. In addition to higher scores, they also experienced more engagement. The program consisted of six short VR experiences and a related lab course.

Measuring how effective VR is can also help professors understand what works. They could assign feedback forms, provide surveys or track the scores of different groups. Focusing on the program’s long-term success before it begins can help clarify its goal.

10. Find Appropriate Space

Only some classrooms can likely accommodate VR learning. Students won’t be able to see with the headsets on, so they need enough space to move their arms around without hitting any objects or people. They would be safe from most accidents with options like Apple’s Vision Pro or Meta Quest 3, considering their three-dimensional display can augment reality for immersion. It lets users see their virtual world and reality simultaneously.

Beyond being an essential safety precaution, it also protects the devices from damage. Schools should consider the number of devices they plan to use at one time and find a relevant area to use them in. Then, they must schedule sessions around other classes.

11. Create Purposeful Lessons

While professors may be tempted to stick to traditional teaching methods, new applications are critical for successful learning facilitation. There’s not much point in having a lesson in a digital environment if it follows the exact pattern of regular teachings.

Beyond branching out to new styles, they should also ensure the material aligns with the purpose of the class. For example, a clinical lab should study human anatomy instead of having a virtual tour of a hospital. While both are technically relevant, the first experience is more productive and isn’t something they could do in their free time.

Successfully Integrate VR in Schools

VR can be an incredible educational tool as long as schools prepare for it appropriately. To successfully integrate it in the classroom, they must train everyone, plan for additional expenses, establish safety precautions and create virtual lessons.