Virtual reality holds potential to enhance classroom experience

Tyler Goodwyn

Students leapt, dodged and gasped as they experienced virtual reality for the first time.   

The HTC Vive team visited the UT campus last week and offered students a look into the world of virtual reality (VR). 

Although virtual reality already has a well-known position in the entertainment world, VR companies have steadfastly worked to get it into the classroom.

Companies like Immersive VR Education are working to allow students to go back in time and sit in on historic moments, such as Einstein’s lectures on the theory of relativity, all in a 3D-simulated environment. 

Neely Droessler, an HTC Vive college field manager, said that VR technology opens many doors, as inventors could use the technology to design buildings and perform walkthroughs of their creation using one of their programs, Tilt Brush.

Some students are also enthusiastic about the possibilities of VR. 

“I would definitely be excited to see virtual reality technology incorporated into my classes,” business freshman Farrein Kahn said. “One thing I really love about this technology is how immersed one feels when inside a virtual setting.”

Electrical engineering sophomore Devin Amatyga said that it may allow doctors to practice without having to operate on real patients.

However, not all students are sure they want to use VR in school. 

“Virtual reality is cool, but it may be a little distracting in classes,” said aerospace engineering freshman Syed Mahmood.

Molecular biosciences professor David Herrin said that students are only in class for a limited time, so virtual reality equipment needs to work quickly. He added that VR might be more effective if students used it on their own time. 

However, Herrin says that he would use VR to help students visualize difficult topics in a biology courses, such as the structures of specific proteins and DNA. 

“Applying that same experience [VR] into a classroom setting could really enhance learning and allow students to understand the application of certain principles in courses that both focus on STEM and the liberal arts,” Kahn said. 

Kahn said it would be interesting to see virtual reality incorporated into one of her business classes. A virtual corporate environment would be an interactive way to learn about various aspects of her subject. 

Mahmood said that he would even pay for VR for on top of his usual academic fees such as textbooks, iClickers and other supplies.  

VR equipment ranges from Google Cardboard at $20 to the Oculus Rift at $600, according to the company websites. 

Google has already shipped off over 5 million of their low-cost devices, which consumers can use with only a cell phone, according to Google’s official blog. 

“It’s incredible — there really are no limits,” Droessler said.