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Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges

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12 min read

To help students learn more easily, educators are always looking for more effective techniques. One of today’s most appealing options is Virtual Reality in education.

According to Mordor Intelligence, the VR market in education is expected to reach $67.02 billion by 2029. But deploying VR in itself isn’t enough to ensure effective learning. As the educational design lead at HQSoftware, I’m constantly exploring various VR solutions to discern best practices and deliver successful VR training to our customers. And here’s what I’ve realized. 

While testing some solutions, I’ve sensed a shortcoming that undermines the effectiveness of VR training. This often happens when makers overlook certain educational nuances, assuming the inherent power of the VR experience is enough. I aim to help you avoid this pitfall.

In this article, I’ll explain how VR can address modern educational challenges and highlight tips for crafting solutions that truly benefit both users and businesses.

Table of contents:

Modern Problems in Education and How Virtual Reality Can Solve Them

Enabling Interactive Experiences

Increasing Engagement via Immersive Technologies

Allowing Unique Tactile Experiences

Inclusivity for People with Disabilities

Unframed Virtual Environment

Conquering Language Limitations

Solving Training Financial Challenges

Educational Games with Virtual Reality

Establishing a Virtual Reality Lab In Education

Examples of Virtual Reality In Education

To Sum Up

Modern Problems in Education and How Virtual Reality Can Solve Them

From 3 to 6 percent. That is the sad percentage of people who actually complete self-paced Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). As an educational specialist, I can highlight several reasons why this happens:

  • dull and static learning content;
  • lack of interactive tasks;
  • outdated learning mechanics;
  • absence of feedback and supervision;
  • low motivation;
  • no set deadlines;
  • lack of personalization; and
  • no tangible consequences for non-completion.

These factors lead to a mismatch between provided learning materials and learners’ exaggerated expectations, which are influenced, among other things, by widespread short-form videos and the decreasing attention span of users. 

None of this is surprising to me, given my experience as both an educational design lead and lecturer. Learners need to be engaged with educational materials and be able to practice what they’re learning, especially when it comes to hard skills.

Virtual Reality provides these capabilities, driving impressive results. According to PwC insights, VR can reduce learning time by up to 4 times and boost confidence in applying learned skills by up to 275%.

Pic 1 How Virtual Reality can help in education 1 - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
How Virtual Reality can help in education

In the next sections, we’ll specify 8 ways VR can help overcome training challenges.

Enabling Interactive Experiences

The main feature of Virtual Reality that has propelled its popularity is the high level of interactivity it offers. Whether it’s exploring ancient civilizations, conducting virtual science experiments, or practicing real-life scenarios in a safe environment, VR enables users to learn by doing, fostering deeper understanding and retention.

VR also allows for interaction with any necessary objects. This is particularly valuable when trainees need to work with difficult-to-access or expensive equipment and materials. If you don’t have dedicated training equipment and need to interrupt ongoing processes for training, substituting VR can also prove invaluable.

This was the case for one of our clients, a famous beverage manufacturer. To train line operator staff, the company had to halt production floor operations for training purposes. 

To make training more accessible, we developed a VR training proof-of-concept, which allows for performing all the necessary procedures on a virtual production line. With this solution, the company can train about 40 people per day using just 3 headsets and without halting ongoing procedures. 

However, there is a hidden tip to consider if you want to provide a high level of interactivity and maximize the effectiveness of a VR simulation. Scientists call it the “illusion of plausibility.”

The plausibility illusion occurs when you feel like what’s happening around you is real, even though you know it’s not.

In one experiment, participants were immersed in a virtual party and observed two characters engaged in conversation. While the characters appeared real, when users attempted to interact with them and received no response, the illusion of immersion was broken. People lost interest because the experience didn’t feel believable anymore, even though they couldn’t directly say why.

This is crucial, because when users actively engage with VR content and immerse themselves in it, they are more likely to experience the full illusion, enhancing its effectiveness. And that’s just what is needed for training. 

That’s why you need to build as interactive an environment as possible, considering not only the direct interactions required during the experience but also incorporating at least minimal levels of interactivity for additional characters and objects. 

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book template 1 - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges

Increasing Engagement via Immersive Technologies

VR introduces a novel way of learning, unusual for students used to traditional learning methods. This sparks curiosity, fostering users to explore learning environments and materials.   

Learners become active participants in their educational journey, leading to what can be as much as an 87% increase in engagement rate. Additionally, this approach allows users to practice as many times as needed, facilitating the development of muscle memory and increasing knowledge retention.

However, engagement in VR relies on many nuances. For example, embodiment features. 

In many VR solutions, users feel disconnected from their bodies, diminishing their sense of presence in the virtual realm. This turns students from active participants to passive spectators, hampering their ability to feel and influence the virtual environment.

So, it’s important to consider the realism and additional experiences provided by trainee avatars. You can give a student’s avatar a full body or at least hands, rather than leaving them as a mere point in space. Providing opportunities for users to view themselves and coordinating real and virtual movements can deepen their sense of presence. 

Pic 2. Embodiment features in VR - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Student’s hands in Virtual Reality

However, you need to ensure consistency: discrepancies between real and virtual movements can disrupt the illusion and reduce engagement.

To further enhance VR training engagement, I can also recommend:

  • Utilizing high-quality graphics and realistic visuals to create a sense of presence. However, it’s essential to strike a balance between cutting-edge graphics and hardware capabilities, especially when designing for a goggle-only version. 
  • Incorporating spatial audio and realistic sound effects to enhance immersion. While AI-generated voice-overs are increasingly common, simulating how sound behaves in the virtual environment can further engage users and enhance authenticity.
  • Integrating storytelling features that captivate learners’ imaginations and evoke emotional resonance. Combining narratives with educational content, you can create memorable experiences that leave a lasting impact on students’ minds.

Allowing Unique Tactile Experiences

Tactility is one of the primary sensations through which we explore and perceive the world. Therefore, don’t underestimate the importance of tactile experiences for VR training.

Tactile feedback adds a new dimension to virtual experiences, allowing users to feel textures, manipulate objects, and interact with their virtual surroundings more intuitively and realistically. 

By engaging multiple senses and facilitating hands-on exploration, VR cultivates essential skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and spatial reasoning, paving the way for holistic learning experiences. 

Tactility also comes to the rescue when visual and sound experiences aren’t sufficient for training specific skills at a realistic level.

For example, when teaching a student how to land an airplane, VR can be combined with haptic equipment to simulate the feeling of device resistance during the simulation, mirroring real-world conditions. Similarly, tactile experience is crucial for simulating surgical procedures or patient examinations, enabling the development of motor skills, spatial awareness, and a sense of tissue density.

However, we observe a kind of struggle here. On the one hand, some systems utilize people’s hands as controllers, which makes interactions like those in the real world and increases the sense of reality. But if you recognize that tactile experience can significantly enhance simulation realism, incorporating specialized equipment to provide tactile sensations becomes a viable option.

Inclusivity for People with Disabilities

By offering customizable and accessible experiences and adaptive technologies, VR ensures that students with disabilities can fully participate in learning activities. From providing alternative modes of interaction for students with motor impairments to offering audio descriptions and subtitles for students with visual or hearing impairments, VR promotes inclusivity and empowers all learners to thrive.

VR simulations offer a safe and controlled environment for users to practice real-world scenarios and activities, including those that may be challenging or inaccessible in physical environments. 

Moreover, VR training fosters inclusivity for caregivers of people with disabilities. Through VR’s immersive nature, caregivers can experience the challenges faced by individuals with disabilities in everyday life, cultivating empathy and a better understanding of their needs.

For example, we developed VR training for caregivers of people with dementia. This training not only teaches caregivers how to correctly perform activities but also allows them to experience how their patients may feel when caregivers make mistakes, ultimately reducing errors.

Unframed Virtual Environment

When building VR training, the only limitation is your imagination. This flexibility makes VR for education highly adaptable, allowing the technology to be used for various training types in different environments. Students can pilot an airplane, escape a fire, or explore the jungle — any type of training simulation you need.

Pic 3. VR in aviation training - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Pilot training in VR

However, in the hunt for an engaging and unusual experience, it’s important not to overdo it and to carefully choose the simulation environment. This concept is known as the “illusion of place.”

Imagine you’re in a virtual reality simulation of a field. You put on your VR headset and see grass and flowers and hear birds. Despite knowing you’re standing in a room with a headset on, your brain starts to believe that you’re actually in the field.

This illusion happens because the brain processes sensory information in a way that makes it feel authentic. Therefore, investing time and resources in selecting an educational setting is worthwhile.

A carefully designed environment that aligns with the educational narrative makes students feel truly immersed in the simulation. Learners become more engaged and focused, concentrating on learning materials. 

On the other hand, if the environment doesn’t feel realistic or fails to correspond to the training goal, students can feel frustrated, reducing the effectiveness of the training.

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Conquering Language Limitations

Language should never be a barrier to learning, and VR is breaking down linguistic barriers with immersive language learning. By simulating real-world scenarios and providing contextualized language practice, VR accelerates language acquisition and fluency. 

Using AI technologies for generating dynamic responses, learners can engage in various communication scenarios, ranging from everyday domestic interactions to more complex scientific discussions.

One example of a convergence of VR and AI is ImmerseMe, which allows learners to practice 9 languages with a bot, recreating various scenarios, from communicating with friends to ordering a croissant in a bakery. 

Pic 4. VR for teaching languages - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Students learn how to order a croissant in a bakery

Moreover, AI can serve as a real-time translator, enabling multinational students to comprehend information in their native language, regardless of the language spoken during the lecture in VR. This also facilitates the exchange of international experiences, as professionals from diverse backgrounds can share their expertise without language barriers. 

Furthermore, virtual shared classrooms enable learners to participate in classes from any part of the world, fostering cultural exchange and language heritage preservation.

Solving Training Financial Challenges

Virtual Reality offers several features to reduce training costs:

  • the ability to work virtually with expensive equipment that a training center can’t afford;
  • eliminating the need for physical resources, such as textbooks, lab equipment, and field trips;
  • practicing working procedures without using actual equipment, thus avoiding disruptions to ongoing work processes;
  • providing scalable solutions accessible remotely, thereby cutting down on travel expenses for both learners and supervisors.

As an example, let’s go back to the solution we at HQSoftware developed for a beverage manufacturer. Training with a real production line involves halting it, which slows down production and incurs costs. Upon testing the proof-of-concept we provided, it was estimated that a full-fledged VR app could reduce training costs by up to 73% annually

If our case doesn’t sound convincing enough, you can consider what’s said about this by PwC insights. They state that while training 3.000+ learners, VR can be 52% more cost-effective than classroom learning. 

Educational Games with Virtual Reality

Who says learning can’t be fun? VR is already proving otherwise. But you can take it a step further by combining VR, games, and education to create educational games in VR.

Some examples include Universe Sandbox VR for exploring space as cosmic architects, Ocean Rift for discovering marine life, Prism Maths for gaining math skills, and many others. 

However, if developing a full-fledged educational game is not on your agenda, you can at least enhance your VR training with gamification elements. Many people like to compete against others or receive recognition for their achievements. 

Pic. 4 Educational games with VR - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Exploring space with Virtual Reality games

Moreover, research indicates that gamified VR simulations are more motivating and engaging, improving participant performance and satisfaction. Also, gamification provides additional opportunities for personalized learning, leading to better competency development. 

To make your VR training more engaging, consider adding the following gamification techniques:

  • reward system, including points, badges, trophies, etc.;
  • competitions and leaderboards;
  • a “level up” training structure, in which learners need to complete some tasks to unlock new content;
  • quests;
  • storytelling elements; and
  • feedback mechanism.

Establishing a Virtual Reality Lab In Education

To ensure effective Virtual Reality training, having just a headset may not be enough. Learners might require additional equipment such as gloves, instruments, treadmills, or even dedicated space to move around.

To address these needs, dedicated virtual laboratories can be established, providing the necessary equipment while ensuring safety and security. Such labs also facilitate monitoring of learners and assessing their performance.

Here are some tips for establishing virtual labs for education in VR:

  • Clearly define the learning objectives and outcomes that the virtual lab will support. Identify the specific skills that students will develop through VR-based activities conducted in the lab.
  • Create dedicated physical spaces within your educational institution or workplace to house the virtual labs. Design these spaces to optimize comfort, accessibility, and safety for users, with considerations for lighting, acoustics, ergonomics, and ventilation.
  • Provide comprehensive training and support for instructors and users of the virtual lab. Offer workshops, tutorials, and resources to familiarize users with VR equipment, software, and best practices for conducting VR-based learning.
  • Establish safety protocols and guidelines to ensure the safe and responsible use of VR equipment and resources within the virtual lab. Educate users about potential risks and precautions related to VR technology, such as motion sickness, eye strain, and tripping hazards.
  • Ensure that the virtual lab is accessible and inclusive for users with diverse abilities and learning needs. Provide accommodations, such as adjustable seating, assistive technologies, and alternative input methods, to support users with disabilities or special requirements.
Pic 5. Tips for establishing virtual labs for education in VR - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Some tips for establishing virtual labs for education in VR

Now, let’s move from theory to practice and explore some real-life use cases for VR in education, along with their outcomes.

Examples of Virtual Reality In Education

Virtual Reality is a versatile technology that can add value to training in any industry. The following examples prove this.

VR app for occupational training

Virtual Reality can not only help advance some skills but also teach them from scratch in a job-relevant context. This was the purpose of our client, who sought to develop VR simulations that could help users gain knowledge in mechanics, engineering, and cooking

Each simulation includes visual and voice guidance, prompting users to repeat the required actions. Then, a user needs to complete all the tasks independently. If some errors occur, a user needs to review the tutorial again and repeat actions until achieving proficiency. 

The results of this VR training include 67% knowledge retention and an 84% engagement rate during training. 

VR platform for medical education

The purpose of this solution developed by HQSoftware was to enhance medical students’ understanding of difficult medical concepts by exploring anatomical structures in detail in VR.  With the solution, learners can rotate and slice 3D models and study medical procedures and theory.
The platform allows for multi-featured access for collaborative learning and live lectures, enabling users to share images, pdf documents, and videos.

With a 63% average knowledge retention rate, the solution serves as a foundation that can be expanded with additional VR simulations to meet the diverse learning needs of various medical organizations.

Pic. 6 VR in medical education - Best Practices for Virtual Reality in Education – Hints and Tips for Overcoming Educational Challenges
Interacting with a 3D body part model

VR training for ground handling agents

The client turned to HQSoftware to reduce the cost of training airport staff. Instead of taking ground handling agents on-site to familiarize them with ground support equipment and airport specifics, our team created a VR solution that allows for conducting the first training stage virtually

The training includes 6 immersive modules covering the main types of equipment, along with four additional modules focusing on airside safety awareness, airside driving, security awareness, and emergency response planning.

The VR training meets the requirements of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and offers a total of 3 hours of immersive learning with an average 47% training cost reduction.

To Sum Up

While there are numerous ways Virtual Reality can improve education and address modern learning challenges, I cannot ignore that there are still aspects to consider to create truly successful and efficient VR training.

Users should be able to engage with various sensory aspects, including vision, sound, and tactile sensations. At the same time, don’t forget about the student’s avatar, to ensure alignment with the learning environment.

This is what, as an educational design lead at HQSoftware, I strive to incorporate in educational VR solutions we develop to both meet customer requirements and the needs of end-users. 

So, if your aim is not just to be at the forefront of innovation but to truly benefit from cutting-edge solutions, let’s talk! Schedule a consultation where we can discuss how to enrich your training with Virtual Reality.

Educational Design Lead

A professional with over 20 years of experience in sales, marketing, and management across diverse industries, including education and consulting services. Adept at developing new educational products and services.

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Read also

Virtual Reality (VR) Simulation in Surgery Training

Integrating Virtual Reality for eLearning: Benefits and Costs

How to Create Virtual Classroom: Software for Platform

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can Virtual Reality Be Used in Education?

How Can Virtual Reality Improve Education?

How Will Virtual Reality Change Education?

What Is the Disadvantage Of Virtual Reality Education?

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