Nathan O’Grady, AR and VR Lead at King’s InterHigh, discusses its exciting and innovative approach to enhancing online learning for students at the online school

Flying through space in search of planets that can sustain life or travelling back in time to World War II. These may sound like sci-fi movie plots, but they’re actually VR (virtual reality) activities we’re using to enhance learning at King’s InterHigh online school.

Stepping beyond a flat screen, VR environments are simulated spaces where you can interact with virtual surroundings in 3D. When students put on a VR headset and grab their motion controllers, they can explore any place imaginable and feel like they’re really there.

This is a game changer in education. Research over the years (including our own pilot study) shows that VR can help students focus, improve their understanding of complex topics, boost their ability to recall information when tested, and much more. Fully immersive, it can connect with students of all learning styles – from visual to auditory to physical. In short, the benefits of VR are unmatched, and today’s students have much to gain from learning with this technology.

For example, reading about life under the Nazis through Anne Frank’s diary is one thing; putting yourself in her shoes is another. With their VR apparatus, students can be transported back in time to explore a full recreation of Anne’s annexe without even leaving their desks. “I don’t usually feel moved by books or texts,” said our student Harry after visiting the Anne Frank VR tour, “but actually experiencing what it was like… feels almost haunting.”

Virtual reality experiences like these are more than just emotive – they’re also effective. Even with no prior teaching on the subject, our students were able to explain the facts of Anne’s time based on the 25-minute VR tour alone. Combined with traditional teaching approaches, this kind of learning has the power to take knowledge and understanding to a new level.

“This is a gamechanger in education. VR can help students focus, improve their understanding of complex topics and boost recall”

The applications of VR are endless, with gains seen across various subjects and skillsets. For example, remaining fully focused during a class is a common difficulty, but virtual reality gets students to actively engage throughout a whole lesson by immersing them in the topic at hand. VR also opens up opportunities that many would be unable to experience otherwise. Many young people will not get the opportunity to go scuba diving or visit the Great Wall of China in real life – with VR, anyone can explore marine ecosystems or walk the Wall’s length, regardless of budget, geography or physical mobility.

This year, students taking the world’s first online International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma with us will regularly don VR headsets to complement their live classes and other interactive learning tools. Inquiry is one of the key aspects of IB learning, and immersive education is an incredible way to drive that curiosity and investigation.

Virtual reality is just one of many innovative learning methods we hope to see more students gain access to in the future. For students at our digital-native school, where our vibrant learner community is built around online technology, it fits in right alongside augmented reality (AR) interactive classroom activities, non-VR language and science simulations, and more proven educational platforms.

One day, VR will likely be as commonplace in schools as pen and paper or computers. At King’s InterHigh, we’re giving our students a headstart in the future of education.

King’s InterHigh

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