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What if your students could experience daily life in Paris without ever leaving the classroom, tour a school or university campus without needing to visit, or complete an entire science lab experiment at home before class even began? These are just a few examples of the experiences that extended reality is making possible for students all over the country.

xR (extended reality) is a collective term that refers to virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. On October 22nd, Edtech Times and Boston University hosted the xR in EDU conference to highlight how xR technologies are being used for education. Here’s how three of the educators featured at the event are using extended reality in their classrooms today:

Nicole Mills, a French professor at Harvard University, uses vR as part of the lesson plan for her Beginning French II: Exploring Parisian Life & Identity course. Mills collaborated with Wonda VR in the production of a virtual reality experience for her students. Four different Parisians were cast to document and share the stories of their life using a vR camera, then the videos were transformed into a Virtual Reality experience, complete with voiceover narration, intermittent subtitles, and other interactive features.

Using VR headsets and technology in the classroom, Mills gives her students the opportunity to live virtually with their Parisian “neighbors” and to engage in an online simulation of life in the European city. Students also leave some time at the end of class to take off the headsets and discuss what they have learned through the VR experience. Mills’ case study is an excellent example of how VR can not only be engaging for students in a higher education environment, but also how it can allow those students to experience places and environments that aren’t otherwise easily accessible.

Helen Mitchell is an Instructional Technology Specialist at Dartmouth Middle School. She works directly with teachers to implement VR technology into the classroom.

Through the use of VR technology, students are showing greater levels of engagement, creativity, and innovation.

“At the middle school level, they’re starting to develop and create things on their own,” says Mitchell.  “Last year, I had the opportunity to work with an eighth-grade student [to] develop a tour of the school. We took a 360 camera and used the ThingLink application to put those pictures into the software, and now we have a VR tour of our school.”

Mitchell also used ThingLink to develop a VR classroom experience so students with high levels of anxiety can experience learning in the classroom from the comfort of home. With the use of virtual reality technology, educators can have greater flexibility over how material is taught to students.

Paul Kasili, Professor and Program Director of Biotechnology at Bunker Hill Community College, talked about the process of implementing vR into his science courses. In Kasili’s STEM courses, he uses Labster, a virtual lab platform, to provide student-centered and accessible instructional experiences. Kasili says that virtual labs make learning more engaging and efficient for his students. Students are also able to interact with the virtual lab at their own pace, as opposed to a traditional lab setting where there would be time and other constraints. Similar to Mills’ class structure, Kasili leaves class time for students to discuss and assess what they have learned after experiencing the virtual labs.

The personal accounts from these three education professionals give a glimpse into what the adoption of virtual reality into the classroom looks like. If you’re interested in how the adoption of xR in education looks like on a larger scale, check out the research conducted by EdTech Times’ Hester Tinti-Kane and Phil Vahey from SRI International, titled xR in EDU Survey: Benchmarking Adoption Trends in K12 and Higher Education, which can be downloaded here.

Interested in trying out some xR technologies for yourself? The 2019 LearnLaunch Across Boundaries Conference will feature a demonstration room for education xR products. Early bird registration is available until December 18 here.

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Jamal Merritt is an intern at LearnLaunch