Is Virtual Reality the future of education?

Dr Marco Gillies, Reader in Computing at Goldsmiths, gave a talk at the Virtual and Augmented Reality to Enhance Learning and Teaching in Higher Education Conference, that explained how virtual reality, and particularly interactive virtual characters, could enable us to learn the kinds of social skills that we need for work. These are the kinds of skills that are so hard to learn in a traditional way, anything from a doctor breaking bad news to a patient to a police officer interviewing a suspect. Professional social skills of this type are very different from our ordinary social lives, and handling them well can only be learned through experience.

Together with Dr Sylvia Pan, Lecturer in Computing at Goldsmiths, Marco has over 20 years experience of developing animated interactive characters that have realistic body language. Encountering a life-sized virtual human in immersive VR is a really powerful experience because body language cues like eye contact or personal space feel very realistic in VR. Making eye contact on a traditional computer just means looking out of the screen, but in VR it feels like eye contact in real life. That means that a VR conversation feels real. We can use this type of realistic social interaction to help train people to be better at their professional social skills.

The conference as a whole included many examples of how VR could be used to teach skills that you can only learn by experience. VR is much cheaper and safer than doing things for real, but much closer to real life than a book or video. In the next few years we will probably see a revolution in immersive media for education, and no where is this going to be more beneficial than in one of the most important skills we need in life: how to interact with other people.

You can see Marco’s write up of the talk here:
Purposeful Practice for learning social skills in VR

And this is a write up of the whole conference:
Virtual and Augmented Reality in Education Conference

If you are interested in Virtual Reality you might be interested in our new Masters in Virtual and Augmented Realityor our MOOC on Virtual Reality