Breaking Educational Barriers with the VR Classroom

Kai Frazier
August 11, 2022

Technology has always played a critical role in the evolution of education, opening up access to new thoughts and ideas and expanding opportunities for learning. From the printing press to the calculator, to the earliest desktop computers, to the VR classroom of the 21st century, technological innovations have powered revolution after revolution in the way teachers and students engage in the learning process.

That’s what Kai XR is all about: using technology to break down barriers in education and expand access for all students. Our interactive, 360° field trips are an integral part of the virtual reality classroom, helping students expand their worldview; fostering a more inclusive, diverse, and safe learning environment; and giving teachers a powerful, turnkey resource to supplement and strengthen traditional lesson planning.

The Building Blocks of the Virtual Reality Classroom

Today, emerging and continuously evolving technologies like VR (virtual reality), AR (augmented reality), MR (mixed reality) and XR (extended reality) are pushing the boundaries of traditional learning farther than we’ve ever seen before. But what are these technologies, how do they differ from each other, and where do they overlap? Here’s a quick look:

Virtual reality, or VR

Virtual reality or VR refers to a fully computer-based recreation or simulation. VR is typically viewed through a headset or other device that projects an image directly in front of the user’s eyes, obscuring their view of the real world and creating the sensation of being immersed in an all-digital environment.

Artificial reality, or AR

Artificial reality or AR layers computer-generated imagery on top of existing reality, typically requiring the use of a smartphone, tablet, or other device. AR allows users to interact with digital images that are blended into the “real world” they can still see around them.

Mixed reality, or MR

Mixed reality or MR is similar to AR in that virtual images and environments are layered on top of the real world. However, MR goes one step further by enabling these digital objects and imagery to interact with—and react to—the physical objects and environment around them.

Extended reality, or XR

Extended reality or XR is an umbrella term for VR, AR, and MR technologies—it simply refers to any computer-based technology that alters reality by blurring the lines between the real and digital worlds. (As in, Kai XR.) 

All of these technologies have their own applications and implications for teachers and students alike, but today we’re taking a closer look at virtual reality in the classroom. The VR classroom is already transforming the learning experience and will continue to play a critical role in shaping the future of education in America and around the world. 

Rather than limiting students to the physical constraints of a school building, the virtual reality classroom lets them explore the world around them—and beyond. We’re talking far beyond. And the possibilities for growth in VR education technology are only going to expand exponentially in the coming years.

Kai XR’s virtual field trips are designed to support an effective VR classroom, helping educators create a safe, interactive learning environment to enhance in-class education.

A Brief History of VR

Virtual reality—or some form of it—has been around a lot longer than most people might realize. Here are some highlights from the evolution of VR technology to give you a sense of just how long:

  • 1838: Invention of the Stereoscope – Often considered the foundation of future VR technologies, the stereoscope used a set of twin mirrors to project two separate but identical images into a viewer’s eyes. The brain combines these images into one, creating a photorealistic, 3-D effect.

  • 1935: Pygmalion’s Spectacles – A short science fiction story by Stanley G. Weinbaum, Pygmalion’s Spectacles “presented a comprehensive and specific fictional model for virtual reality.”

  • 1962: First VR Patent – Invented six in 1956, the first VR machine—Sensorama—was patented in 1962 by Cinematographer Morton Heilig. Sensorama was a booth that could fit up to four people, providing “3D video, audio, vibrations, smell and atmospheric effects” to fully immerse viewers into a film.

  • 1975: VIDEOPLACE – Martin Krueger unveils the first interactive VR platform, VIDEOPLACE, at the Milwaukee Arts Center. The platform used “computer graphics, projectors, video cameras, video displays and position-sensing technology” to surround users in its virtual world via large video screens rather than a headset.

  • 1990: Virtuality – The first VR arcade machine, Virtuality, is exhibited at the Computer Graphics 90 Exhibition in London.

  • 2012: Oculus Rift – The first consumer-focused VR headset, Oculus Rift, raises $2.4 million on Kickstarter, and the Oculus VR company is acquired two years later by Facebook, marking a turning point in mass-market VR products.

Virtual Reality in the Classroom 

Since the broader adoption of VR technology among consumers, educators have been exploring ways to incorporate this transformative technology into classroom instruction. The virtual reality classroom offers opportunities to enhance the learning experience across a wide spectrum of educational styles and needs.

Immersive Learning

Immersive learning—which uses VR, AR, and XR technologies to enhance the traditional learning experience—is quickly establishing itself as a useful tool for educators to deliver more interactive, engaging lessons that go beyond the confines of the classroom.

This style of learning enables students to interact with a simulated environment, creating a more sensory-oriented learning experience that many educational experts believe can provide critical benefits for students. Immersive learning powered by the VR classroom benefits students in 5 key ways:

  1. Increasing engagement by giving students the opportunity to not just observe, but also interact with their environment to foster truly experiential education.
  1. Tailoring lessons to specific learning styles, including helping students who learn more visually and kinetically. (Kai XR’s viewing guides, included with all our VR field trips, also help teachers engage students who may learn better through listening, reading, and writing.)
  1. Bringing the past—as well as the present and future—to life, giving students a more personal perspective on history and current events that simply reading or listening to a lesson may not convey.
  1. Improving memory retention by fostering a more “hands-on” approach to education, which helps improve recall while increasing focus and enjoyment.
  1. Putting students and teachers in control of the learning experience to allow for more personalized education.

Given these benefits and the rapid evolution of technology to support virtual reality in the classroom setting, there is no doubt that immersive learning will continue to play a critical role in the evolution of education. However, there are still limitations to fully immersive learning, including recommendations that children ages 12 and under avoid using VR headsets. 

That’s why Kai XR’s Exploration Mode leverages the same cutting-edge 360° technology that powers our virtual reality field trips to turn a tablet, smartphone, or other hand-held device into an interactive learning experience without the use of a VR headset. We strive to be the first entry point into the VR classroom and immersive learning for younger students, providing a safe, age-appropriate environment for learning that evolves with students as they grow.

Assistive Learning

For students with additional needs, the VR classroom offers opportunities to help build the skills they need to not just get by, but thrive. That includes:

  1. Increasing focus for students with attention deficit disorder (ADD) and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by blocking out distractions and allowing students to interact exclusively with their lessons.
  1. Helping students practice soft skills—including collaboration, teamwork, and problem-solving—that are needed to excel in school as well as in their future careers.
  1. Giving all students equal opportunity to explore the world around them, regardless of special needs, income level, or other factors that may prevent them from engaging in traditional field trips.

STEM and STEAM Education

STEM or STEAM education—which focuses on science, technology, engineering, art (in the case of STEAM), and mathematics—has been a focus for educators for the past two decades.

Powered by interactive VR, AR, MR, and XR technologies, the 21st century VR classroom has the potential to revolutionize the way teachers impart these valuable skills.

According to one study, there’s a real disconnect between what students perceive as being STEM careers and what they actually are.

  • Many K-12 science teachers believe that VR in the classroom can help students understand and connect with the lessons they teach, including in fields like biology and anatomy, to help make science come to life for students. 
  • The same can be said for mathematics. The virtual reality classroom enables students to “manipulate geometric shapes through space” and “connect with mathematical concepts” on a whole new level.
  • The VR classroom can also be used to facilitate more engaging art lessons, allowing teachers to take students to see world-famous works of art without ever leaving the classroom. (Like our virtual field trip to see and experience the official Obama Portraits at the National Portrait Gallery.)

Field Trips in the Digital Age

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of factors—from a lack of financial resources to transportation constraints—prevented many students from being able to access the educational opportunities that field trips provide. That is one of the reasons we started Kai XR back in 2018—to expand access for everyone by bringing field trips to students in order to foster greater inclusivity and diversity in learning. 

As classes moved online in 2020, teachers across the country began looking for new, innovative ways to keep students engaged in remote learning—and more and more of them found virtual reality in the classroom and VR field trips the best way to do that.  

Through a VR field trip, like any of the 100+ ones Kai XR offers, students can take a trip to world-class museums; see and experience the arts, science, and history up close and personal; or go on a journey around the world (and beyond)—all without leaving the classroom or their own homes. 

Research and Projections on the VR Classroom

The VR class isn’t an entirely new phenomenon. In fact, virtual reality in the classroom has been around for long enough for researchers to make some interesting findings. 

According to a study published by the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning that analyzed 20 years of research on the use of VR tech in K-12 schools and post-secondary institutions:

  • VR tech and the VR classroom were more frequently used in higher education than K-12 schools, giving plenty of room for growth to expand use of these technologies for primary and secondary educators.
  • Basic science, social science, and health and medicine were the most popular disciplines being taught in the VR classroom setting.
  • Desktop-based VR tech is most commonly used for inquiry-based education, while more immersive VR tech enabled by the use of headsets has led to an increase in direct instruction.

Moreover, recent projections show that the VR classroom is on track for continued growth:

  • Technology supporting the VR classroom is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 42.5% between 2021 and 2026.
  • Head-mounted VR displays used in virtual reality classrooms grew from 4 million units shipped worldwide in 2018 to more than 14 million units in 2020.
  • The lockdown following the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increased demand for VR, AR, and XR technologies, giving rise to more VR classrooms nationwide.

Given the rapid progress we have seen in technology designed for the VR classroom and how much room for growth there is, signing up for one of Kai XR’s virtual reality field trip packages will help ensure your students are able to benefit from these innovative, interactive educational experiences sooner rather than later.   

What Teachers are Saying about VR in the Classroom

When it comes to the virtual reality classroom, and using VR in general, teachers and educators are increasingly on board as well—as are parents. That’s not just here in America, but also true for our neighbors across the pond.  

According to a survey of parents and teachers in the UK and US: 

  • 61% of UK teachers and 47% of US teachers view technology as a critical learning tool.
  • 55% of UK parents and 60% of US parents see VR tech and social gaming as key areas of education technology that will be incorporated into classroom learning over the next five years.
  • 77% of UK parents and 81% of US parents see games as having a positive impact on learning—while 74% of UK teachers and 72% of US teachers feel the same.

Still not convinced? Hear what these educators have to say about Kai XR’s virtual platform and the future of the VR classroom:

“Kai XR spares nothing when engaging & empowering students to pursue new educational opportunities.  We are proud to work with a Black female tech founder as her example inspired many of our students.” - Daniel Rosove, Director of Impact Partnerships, SoLa Impact 

The VR Classroom in a Post-Pandemic Learning Environment

If the VR classroom was catching on before the COVID-19 pandemic, then that trend has only accelerated since widespread school closures led to an increase in online learning and a reexamination of the role of virtual reality in the classroom.

Nationwide, teachers are increasingly leveraging the power of the VR class to keep students engaged. This potential of the VR classroom to help teachers engage students cannot be overstated—nor can the benefits for teachers.

Let’s face it—the pandemic hasn’t been a picnic for anyone, but teachers and educators have had it especially rough. A June 2021 RAND study found teachers reporting significantly higher rates of stress and even depression than the general population since the onset of the pandemic. Here are three key takeaways:

  1. Nearly 8 out of 10 teachers (78%) reported frequent job-related stress, compared to just 40% of other working adults.
  1. More than one-quarter (27%) reported symptoms of depression, compared to 10% of other adults.
  1. Mode of instruction was one of the highest-rated stressors for teachers. 

Not only can Kai XR’s virtual field trips help students unlock their potential, open new doors, and explore the world around them—but they can help give teachers and educators just a little bit of time back in their day by providing turnkey educational solutions that come equipped with educator-designed and student-approved content. 

Moreover, as education continues to evolve in response to external factors like the pandemic, the VR classroom will become even more commonplace and expected. VR, AR, and XR technologies will all be critical in keeping students engaged in the learning process no matter where they are.

Kai XR Takes the VR Classroom to New Heights

Kai XR’s virtual field trips can help build a VR classroom experience that educates and empowers students, while making life a little easier for teachers. 

Each lesson comes with its own plan and discussion guide designed by educators for students, providing teachers with the assurance that all content offered through our interactive platform is engaging, educational, and age-appropriate for their students.

Below are just a few examples of areas of education Kai XR’s interactive field trips cover:

  • STEM/STEAM: Our CRISPR field trip takes students on a 360° tour of the Innovative Genomics Institute to learn how scientists are using DNA editing to treat blood disorders like sickle cell anemia. 
  • Government: Students can get a taste for government and a behind-the-scenes look at life at 1600 West Pennsylvania Avenue (aka the White House) by taking the Kai XR field, The People’s House.
  • Health and Science: Kai XR blasts students off to the forefront of innovation, where they can learn about the skills it takes to fly high in the exciting career of aerospace engineering. 

Virtual field trips enable students from all walks of life to access the same opportunities for education and growth, fostering a greater sense of inclusion and accessibility—two of the core tenets at Kai XR. As VR, AR, MR, and XR technology evolves and widespread adoption continues to grow, the VR classroom will only play a more prominent role in shaping and redefining the future of education.

As with any new and emerging technology, early adoption is critical. Getting started today by signing up for Kai XR today is a great way to get students involved and engaged while opening up new doors—and entirely new worlds.

Check out our pricing and package options that can help enhance your VR classroom and put your students on the path to success today. Have questions? Email us at info@kaixr.com or give us a quick call at 510-993-0993. We’re happy to help!

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In memory of my sunshine, Ky(ra) G. Frazier. Love you to the moon and back.