The Impact of Virtual Reality on Student Engagement and Learning

As technology advances, post-secondary institutions are leveraging cutting-edge technologies to attract and engage students. Virtual reality (VR) is gaining momentum in higher education and student recruitment. University Canada West’s (UCW) offers a 360 Virtual Experience tour of their Vancouver House campus, allowing prospective students to explore the facilities and gain insights into campus life virtually.

The power of VR campus tours includes its ability to transport students to the heart of campus and offer immersive journeys for those unable to attend physical open house days. When COVID-19 impacted traditional campus visits, VR opened up a new communication channel between universities and prospective students, extending its reach to international students.

A brief introduction to virtual reality

VR is an interactive, computer-generated environment that simulates a physical presence in real or imagined worlds. Users wear a headset with sensors that track their movements and display corresponding visual feedback, creating an immersive experience. VR technology has been adopted in various industries, including gaming, health care and entertainment, and now it’s making its way into higher education.

Virtual reality and blended learning models

In recent years, Canadian higher education institutions have been exploring innovative approaches to teaching, with 41% adopting a blended learning model, according to CourseCompare. This model combines in-person and online options, offering flexibility and accommodating diverse learning preferences.

VR’s immersive learning experiences enable better recall by isolating students from distractions and providing engaging visual and kinaesthetic encounters. This heightened focus leads to improved retention and a deeper understanding of the subject matter. Additionally, VR offers a safe environment for students to practice new skills without fear of injury or errors, allowing for realistic simulations that encourage experimentation and mastery.

While the initial expense of VR can be high, its cost-effectiveness becomes apparent in the long run. VR enables virtual field trips that eliminate expenses such as transportation and accommodation, making education more accessible for all. Moreover, the immersive experiences VR provides can expand the reach of recruitment efforts, attracting prospective students who might have yet to consider the institution. VR offers empathy by allowing users to experience another person’s perspective firsthand, promoting greater understanding and compassion among learners.

Educators can gain valuable insights into student performance by combining VR with eye-tracking and biometric capabilities. These technologies can analyze students’ focus, emotional states and stress levels, allowing personalized feedback and tailored learning experiences. This data-driven approach can lead to improved academic outcomes and overall student satisfaction.

Successful implementation and emotional connections

Research indicates that VR can foster an emotional connection between the brand and the customer. This emotional bond is vital for higher education institutions seeking to attract and retain potential students. By offering a virtual campus tour, institutions can showcase their unique features and academic offerings, giving prospective students a genuine sense of campus life and atmosphere.

In addition, VR tours allow institutions to cater to international and remote students who may not have the means or opportunity to visit the campus in person. By offering a VR experience, these institutions can level the playing field and ensure that all potential students have the chance to explore and connect with the institution, regardless of their location.

Benefits of virtual reality for prospective students

The QS 2019 International Student Survey revealed that 39% of students saw ‘virtual tours of the institution as being influential in their decision-making process.

Virtual reality offers numerous benefits to prospective students. Those living far from campus can virtually visit the institution, saving time, money and reducing environmental impact. It provides more detailed insight into the institution and surrounding area than static images or videos.

With the VR industry valued at about $5.98 billion CAD in 2022 and projected to reach $31.37 billion CAD by 2028, interactive virtual campus tours are fast becoming a staple in student recruitment offices. The current generation of students, raised on interactive technology, now expects cutting-edge educational experiences.

High-quality 360 virtual campus tours allow institutions to showcase unique landmarks, highlight student lifestyles and promote sports and co-curricular activities. Green screen techniques and state-of-the-art videography can enhance prospective students’ sense of community and connection, creating a lasting first impression.

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