VR headset

Virtual classroom no longer means online lectures. Soon, students will be putting on headsets to learn in new environments – surgery rooms, natural disasters or even space. Field trip, anyone?

Consumers are boarding the virtual reality (VR) train as new products launch. The higher education industry is paying attention, too, as VR opens doors for immersive learning, recruitment and more.

The applications of VR in higher education are vast. Already, schools like Virginia Tech are enhancing the way they present performance art pieces, visualize big data and even recreate tornadoes. In her piece on VR in healthcare, my colleague Kelsey Lewia wrote about University of Southern California’s (USC) MedVR lab. Beyond the classroom, institutions have been thinking of ways to use VR as a recruiting tool for years.

“VR’s place in the curriculum is limited only by an instructor’s imagination and budget,” says Johns Hopkins’ Christopher Sessums in a recent Ed Tech article.

At this point, access to VR in and out of the classroom may be a differentiating factor that puts prospective students on the mailing list or helps researchers stand out. Once VR becomes widely available, students won’t look at who’s doing it, but who’s doing it best.

With VR in its infancy, perhaps it’s too soon to gauge its impact in higher education. On one hand, VR technology might become an integral part of the way we teach; however, significant investments in VR today might not deliver the initial ROI some expect.

One thing is certain, though: I’ll be keeping eyes peeled to see what ideas emerge while colleges and universities compete for the innovation trophy as VR works deeper into academia.