In my recently published note “Best Practice for Virtual Reality in Higher Education” , Glenda Morgan and I recommend to CIOs of higher education institutions to gain a competitive advantage by differentiating their learning environments to facilitate and support the implementation of virtual reality solutions, which will increase student learning and engagement. A key challenged faced by learning institutions is the ability to create a learning environment in which students can obtain authentic, but low-stakes, hands-on experience – this is important for working with patients or understanding human anatomy in medical schools for example. The other challenge is the ever increasing competitive environment and higher education institutions are looking to differentiate and create a unique brand.
From a higher education perspective, the interest in VR stems from the following drivers:
- It enhances the efficacy of learning for students.
- It helps to attract and retain students.
- It prepares the students for their careers
These drivers lead us to estimate that by 2021, 60% of U.S.-based higher education institutions will intentionally use VR to create an enhanced simulation and learning environment. Strategic investment in and a commitment to VR will increasingly become one of the ways that campuses will differentiate themselves in a competitive environment. Immersive technologies should be on the strategic radar of all CIOs in higher education, regardless of size or type.
Higher Education institutions looking to get started with VR need to:
- Implement VR technologies and experiences that appeal to students
- Develop an immersive VR environment(s) to make coursework more engaging, compelling, and effective.
- Begin with a “buy rather than build” strategy
Determining the right areas for higher education institutions to get started in VR is the important first step. After that, delivering the VR experience in a meaningful and effective way will be key. VR will definitely help in meeting the challenges of today’s higher education institution, but if done incorrectly, could have the complete adverse effect. Developing a realistic, and believable, virtual environment requires work and experience. Oftentimes, higher education institutions do not have the technology subject matter expertise in house and will need to outsource at least their initial projects. However, over time, institutions may determine that investing in a VR product development team makes more sense and will open opportunities for expanding VR capabilities across multiple disciplines.