Taking a step back, VR investments in education and enterprise are growing rapidly into billions of dollars. Giants in the VR space such as Oculus, HTC, Sony, Microsoft, Samsung, and consumers like Walmart, KLM, Fedex are implementing VR based training. I believe there are significant barriers in VR adoption on learning platforms like Google Classroom, EdX, and Microsoft Education. These barriers are less important for enterprise VR adoption due to the greater resources (technical, money, man-power, etc.) available, but based on our experience still have a crucial impact on scaling enterprise VR.
Let’s examine some key hurdles for mass adoption of VR imposed by the current VR ecosystems.
- A Blind Spot & Challange. The approach taken by the VR platforms, Google and others is to assume that students will put on a headset and use VR like they play games or entertainment. Learning and education is very different. The examples we see for VR applications in education are in carefully managed labs and structured environments. How do you motivate and make a compelling case to students in their home to use XR in their day to day classwork? How do you motivate teachers who are constrained for time and resources to use a new technology, no matter how phenomenal a learning experience it may bring?
- Limited Content. The current AR/VR ecosystems are heavily invested in app stores, and content delivery through apps. While this provides a very controlled and high quality experience, it also limits the available content and easy content creation by non-experts. Someone has to invest a lot of time and money to build apps, get them approved, and make them available through an app store. XR content is focused around experiences such as visiting a museum or travelling to some exotic locations. High quality human body exploration or learning apps like Labster are not cheap. An important limiting factor is that the content is fixed, and inherently limits its use in creative ways that I have seen student and teacher assignments in Google classroom.
- Time Constraints. Neither the teachers nor students have the time and/or expertise to crank out apps for VR platforms. Creating apps requires several skills from coding, game design, 3D modeling, and knowledge of a gaming platform such as Unity. Even with all the drag and drop tools, it is a significant burden for K-12 or university teachers to use app development tools. The app development may consume significant time of the teachers thereby burdening their already busy schedule.
- Constraint of Apps. Students can use an app and interact with the content in fixed ways. Apps cannot be modified or customized to meet the needs of students or educators. Could a school or university build customized apps for their curriculum? Sure it’s possible. There are hundreds of studios who specialize in building customized apps for education. Significant time and resources have to be invested to build and maintain custom apps, and additionally, pose the same challenges discussed in 1-4 above. What is important is the flexibility for teachers to make changes as the students demand. Moreover, it must be easy for the teachers to build the content on their own. Self service is the best way for teachers to adapt this technology. This will encourage group collaboration.
- Access. Apps that are designed for VR and AR interactions are not usable without the required headsets. For example, an app from an Oculus store requires buying an Oculus Quest. I cannot use the app without having access to an Oculus Quest. Phone based apps offer some flexibility, but they are not comfortable for sustained use (compared to Quest) and interactions are not very reliable. User’s have to start the app, insert the phone, etc.
How do you empower educators and students alike to use powerful 3D content and XR technologies in a practical way? In part 3 of this blog we will discuss new strategies and solutions for efficiently incorporating XR into education.