The Past Present and Future of Virtual Reality in Education.

 

When the Covid-19 pandemic started caused significant changes in the way, I could deliver courses. The government, regulatory bodies, and health authorities worldwide enforced a shutdown of all educational institutes, including medical and dental schools. The shutdown caused a significant change in how I could deliver my courses and made me look at other ways to deliver the curriculum to my students.

As is reflect over the last eight weeks in LRNT 526, I was very fortunate to work with a team of individuals that brought new insight and ideas to the world of technology. I have gained a considerable amount of insight into Virtual Reality (VR), especially within the realm of education.

As a team, we engaged in a virtual reality learning activity that encouraged collaboration, engagement, and interactivity with our team in a synchronous live session environment. Our goal was to examine the outcome of using virtual reality (VR) technology while creating a final visual product. During our collaboration, we created a flourishing plant that started from a tiny seed. Each team member described their interpretation and description of their representation to their specific specialization or questions about VR. The activity allowed me to reflect on how I could incorporate this technology into my teachings and let others in the course ask questions and give feedback on our ideas. 

My research during this course has shown me that the benefits of Virtual reality in dentistry are constantly assessed as a method or an adjunct to improve fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination in pre-clinical settings (Roy et al., 2017). At first, I admit, I had tunnel vision, and all my research was directed towards the health care sector, as that has been my focus over the last 28 years. It was not until I sat down and dove deep into a book Written by Eric Southgate, Virtual Reality in Curriculum and Pedagogy,” that I realized the potential of VR in education is untapped. Her notion of Virtual Reality in education and the ability for individuals to immerse themselves within a virtual world to experience a new way of learning is defiantly the way of the future. 

My research into Virtual Reality and my tenacity to bring new ideas into my teachings led me to apply to a Pilot program through SAIT. The pilot program Scholarly Activity Research Excellence (SARE) has opened some doors to the possibilities of collaborating with the School of Technology and creating a Pilot project to bring some pilot projects to life in the future. Whether it is within a health care program or business program, I do believe that VR in education is the way of the future. 

 

“The science of today is the technology of tomorrow.” – Edward Teller

 

Roy, E., Bakr, M. M., & George, R. (2017). The need for virtual reality simulators in dental education: A review. The Saudi Dental Journal, 29(2), 41–47. https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sdentj.2017.02.001

5 thoughts on “The Past Present and Future of Virtual Reality in Education.

  1. Wow! This is amazing, Cheryl! I am excited to see where this leads. While, of course, I share many of your sediments, I still worry about the overhyping of the technology. It is very easy to get lost in what could be rather than what has happened or is currently happening. One area I foresee that concerns me is the transferability of virtual training to real-world training, as currently, VR lacks realistic feedback for touch (referred to as haptic feedback, here is a link if you want to look at some upcoming possibilities: https://www.bhaptics.com/) and has no feedback for smell and taste (again you can explore some novel ideas here: https://feelreal.com/). However, even with the implementation of multisensor VR simulations, I highly doubt it will ever perfectly equate to real life. Irwin shared this article with me, and it does a decent job explaining the issues training with virtual systems today:
    https://nautil.us/issue/99/universality/you-cant-dissect-a-virtual-cadaver

    While I admit my medical knowledge is somewhat limited, it seems like VR is better suited as an “inciting” event rather than the main course. By this, I mean it is helpful to introduce and explore topics in a no-risk environment, allowing learners to make mistakes without the risk of expensive capital costs or injury. However, the limit of “how much you can learn” in a virtual environment and transfer to real-world applications, especially with fine motor skills, is, from my understanding, still in need of research and development. Either way, I am incredibly excited to see where this heads. If you have any public-facing information from such a pilot, I would appreciate it if you could send it my way.

    1. Hi Mike,
      As always, you have great feedback that gives me a lot of food for thought. I agree 100% that I am not sure if virtual reality can simulate a whole patient experience. I have learned so much over the last six weeks by researching the use of VR in the health care field. It has made me realize that VR is untapped and can be used for so much more than health care. One of the business professors at my school has looked into implementing it into his program to assist his learners with talking to clients and learning how to communicate. The thought never crossed my mind that it could be used for business programs, especially those with English as a second language.
      There have been significant gains within the medical field with a program called ImmersiveTouch. It has taken VR simulation training a step further with Its surgical simulators with a unique pod that allows medical professionals to interact with a three-dimensional computer-generated model through haptic instruments. As advancements in technology are introduced, I believe the possibilities are endless with who, what and how they can be used.
      However, the question remains would such technology be capable of replacing the real thing? The future of technology is in the hands of those that dream. I look at how far Disney has come. Back in 1991, I was given the opportunity to participate in a pilot project Disney was testing. It was for a new ride Aladins Magic Carpet. I was given a headset to put on and sat on a platform that moved with my movements. Back then, I was not thinking about how cool the technology was. I was excited that I was a princess on a magic carpet. As I think back, I realize how far technology has advanced, and now Disney has rides that immerse you in a virtual world that encompasses all six senses. I am excited about all the possibilities I may have with the proposal and a pilot project. I would be happy to share any information with you. Who knows, maybe in the future we will work on a project together and create something great.
      As Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

  2. That is an excellent point. Philosophy is as much art as it is logical deduction.

    I honestly had no idea these things existed, which makes me want to experience them! I hope products like ImmersiveTouch move towards “glove” based controls to give a more natural form of physical feedback, though it looks awesome for 3D representations.

  3. I wonder if the development of VR technology in dentistry will eventually not need the dentist to be in the same room with the patient. If you can observe the inside of the mouth through a camera and then operate the tools via remote control, would it not increase the precision, speed and overall quality of every procedure? Of course, one has to consider the human factor, how would the patient feel if the dentist was no longer next to the chair. The more technology is introduced the more alienated we can feel from each other. If dentistry goes full VR, is it going to add to the alienation we already feel as a society?

    1. Hi David,
      You make some excellent points, I often wonder as well the more technology that is introduced will they become alienated. From my research VR has become increasing popular in he medical field, especially helping those with anxiety. I would be interested to find out if those who are suffering from anxiety and being treated with VR therapy if it was an existing condition or is it due to the isolation from the pandemic. I am very curious if the outcomes are different depending on the circumstance.

      In regards the future of remote control dentistry and a dentist not being present, China is already there . They created a robot that can perform surgeries with no dentist present. The back ground it was that they do not have enough qualified dentist in china to treat the 400 million people that live there.

      I have found it interesting how certain countries are so far ahead of us with some technologies and then far behind with others.

      I attached the article if you’re interested, its a eye opening read.

      https://dentistry.co.uk/2019/04/26/robot-dentist-china-first-fit-implants-patient-without-human-involvement/

      As I currently I see it, technology in the health sector is going to increase, perhaps by 2099 the world will be ran with trained medical robots instead of humans.

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