Home Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality Real Uses of Virtual Reality in Education: How Schools are Using VR

Real Uses of Virtual Reality in Education: How Schools are Using VR



I'm attending UB Tech 2017 as I write this. Over the last few days, I've been enjoying lot of great breakout sessions, some good keynotes, learning about new and evolving offerings from vendors, and of course, meeting new colleagues and networking.

Yesterday I attending a session titled, “Real Applications of Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education”, delivered by Ben Fineman. Fineman is the NET+ Program Manager for Internet2, where he helps to manage Internet2's portfolio of cloud based video, voice, and collaboration solutions. He is a respected topic expert who speaks regularly at various national and international academic conferences.

In his session he focused more on schools using Virtual Reality (versus Augmented) which I thought was great since that's the area where I've really been wondering if and when it might begin to make an impact. AR has already picked up a lot since there are plenty of affordable apps, but VR can be pricey to get into, and good VR comes with heavier technology requirements. But apparently there's a lot going on in the world of education with virtual reality!

A Quick Overview of Today's Virtual Reality Hardware

Fineman started with an overview of these technologies and some of the key players.

Virtual Reality took what has probably been its biggest step towards public recognition when Facebook bought the Oculus Rift, which had its consumer release in 2016. The Oculus Rift provides High Quality VR for about $500. Another popular high end offering is the HTC Vive, which typically costs a couple hundred dollars more.

On the other end of the spectrum, there is Google Cardboard – dirt cheap (as in $10 – $15 or so), but the experience is pretty weak. Nevertheless, many K-12 schools have been using Google Cardboard as an affordable introduction to the world of VR.

Some other offerings include the Gear VR (2015), which also uses the phone, but provides a much better experience than Cardboard, and Playstation X, a proprietary offering that requires you to have a Playstation. Windows 10 VR is just starting to ship (or should soon), so that may become another player in the market.

To provide some sense of the scale of sales of these devices, Fineman noted that Gear VR sold 2.3 million units in 2016 vs 355,000 Oculus rift.

Fineman also noted that AR and VR are, “different ends of the same spectrum”.AR-VR-spectrum-Fineman

In 2016, the Gartner Hype Cycle, which uses a set of phases to describe the life cycle of new technologies, showed AR falling into the “Trough of Disillusionment”, while Virtual Reality was just climbing out of it.



Fineman went on to offer examples of applications and ways that schools are using them, sprinkling in specific examples of schools doing this. If you are interested in VR as an instructional application, there are good examples here.

Virtual Fields Trips

  • The Arlington Science Focus School in Arlington, VA is using the Oculus Rift to take their students on virtual field trips to places like the the Smithsonian Museum (the Smithsonian actually has a bunch of different virtual tours, using a variety of technologies)
  • Titans of Space offers a tour of the solar system, great for some science classes
  • Google Expeditions is getting a lot of attention with their growing library of field trips
  • Go back to the time to the Jurassic Age (search “Jurassic Age Virtual Reality” to find a variety of apps)
  • Another interesting example was college students identifying hazards on a job site using VR, avoiding having to be in a dangerous situation in order to learn

Content Creation

  • Gaelscoil Eoghain Ui Thuairisc school in Carlow, Ireland is recreating historic sites with Mission V 3D modeling software
  • Drury University in Springfield, MO has been teaching architecture design using virtual reality tools

Special Education

  • The Jackson School in Victoria, Australia has been using the Oculus Rift to help students with special needs
  • Silesian University of Technology in Silesia Poland is doing therapeutic exercises with autistic students using virtual reality technology

Medical Uses


Virtual campus tours available on the web are being evolved to work on Augmented Reality platforms. A couple popular platforms for this are You Visit and Georama.

The University of Michigan is using VR to let potential football playing students experience what it's like to experience being on the field in a full stadium.

New Pedagogies

  • Mendel Grammar School in Opava City, Czech Republic is teaching students about the anatomy of the eye in biology classes with the Oculus Rift
  • St. John’s School Boston, Massachusetts is using Minecraft and VR to create immersive experiences
  • Penn State University in Pennsylvania is training students to do things in the virtual world as a precursor to doing it in the real world, increasing the efficacy of learning
  • University of British Columbia in Vancouver is experimenting with virtual lecture halls

While wrapping up his fascinating presentation, Fineman discussed the evolving potential for VR and AR as a collaboration technology using avatars and mapped facial expressions. As another example of the future of AR, he mentioned Microsoft's developing holoportation applications, which can allow people to holographically “teleport” and interact.

Clearly the future of Augmented Reality in education is very exciting and full of potential. We are only at the dawn of this powerful technology – I can't wait to see what is to come!

Fineman suggested that interested people join this Internet2 Metaverse working group to participate in an ongoing dialogue about these evolving technologies: bit.ly/mv-wg.

The original presentation is available here: bit.ly/ubtech-vr.



  1. The future of the future of education will be very enthusiastic. We are only in the dawn of this powerful technology – we can not wait to see what’s going to happen

  2. […] Virtual reality (VR) devices really vary in price. There are some that cost $500 like the Oculus Rift, while others like the Google Cardboard only cost $10-$15. Schools are using these cheaper systems to introduce VR in the classroom to help youngsters get involved in their academia! They’re provided cool opportunities through VR. Check out this article which talks about some of the ways people are using VR in schools! https://www.emergingedtech.com/2017/06/real-uses-of-virtual-reality-in-education-how-schools-are-usin… […]

  3. Very Lovely article! Can we connect? I need your advice on the topic as we are trying to implement the use of VR devices in schools and Private tutoring in Nigeria. Thank you.

  4. […] Virtual Reality is not just games. It is expected to revolutionise the whole educational system as well. A lot of thought goes into how knowledge should be imparted into the young ones. Virtual reality may hold one key aspect of the answer, that is, making the kids actually see the Taj Mahal or Eifel Tower instead of teaching them from books. There are real uses of Virtual Reality in Education. […]

  5. Amazing article. Virtual reality seems to be much more mature than AR. In fact there are now VR platforms available which allows to teach large classes in a VR environment. It is very easy to make my own class in a few clicks. The students just need a cellphone and some VR headsets for cell phones. Can be a cheap cardboard for a few dollars or a more comfortable version. The platform is called edu2vr and availabe at http://www.edu2vr.com/

  6. Great article Kelly! So glad to hear how the VR landscape is changing. Our school recently purchased STEAM technology from STS Education called zSpace (https://www.stseducation-us.com/steam/). We are eager to learn how to use it and infuse it in our classrooms. It’s exciting to see how the educational technology world is changing and it’s fascinating to hear from industry experts like Ben Fineman.

  7. This is a great innovative development, it will help me more in delivering instructions for behavioural changes.

  8. It’s interesting to see how far technology has evolved since then. VR undoubtedly provides a creative platform for students of all kinds and ages to learn more and visually experience something at first hand. This innovation would help students to absorb more of the lessons they’d learn, especially those who are considered visual learners.

    -Sunny, writemy.report


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