02 Nov Virtual reality: a new methodology that came to reamain
When we think of virtual reality, video games and the world of gamming immediately come to mind. However, virtual reality is much more than that, especially when applied to education as it offers us infinite possibilities.
But… what exactly is virtual reality? The term virtual reality (VR) was popularized in the late 1980s by Jaron Lanier, one of the pioneers in the field. The Encyclopaedia Britannica describes virtual reality as “the use of computer modelling and simulation that enables a person to interact with an artificial three-dimensional (3-D) visual or other sensory environment. VR applications immerse the user in a computer-generated environment that simulates reality through the use of interactive devices, which send and receive information and are worn as goggles, headsets, gloves, or body suits.”
However, it was not until less than a decade ago when education experts have begun to develop, in collaboration with specialist engineers in the field, specific software that can be used in educational centres.
Following this line, it was as in 2015, Centro San Viator in collaboration with the young computer engineering start up LUDUS, began to use virtual reality as a methodology in the teaching-learning process of young people with special educational needs.
The opportunity arose when, in the course of a Warehouse and Forklift training, we saw the need to incorporate new methodologies that would facilitate the students’ learning to operate the forklift in a safe context, where they could progressively acquire the skills necessary for handling it.
Throughout the first six months of 2016, we worked together with LUDUS (https://ludusglobal.com/) and the forklift company VIBACAR (https://www.carretillasvibacar.es/) to make all the necessary modifications in the software, sequencing the activities and graduating the difficulty of the tasks.
Thus, the participants used as a learning tool an innovative virtual reality platform that emulated all the functionalities of forklifts and that allowed the training to be completely realistic and in a 100% safe environment: from perception training, handling of the forklift itself, to all kinds of complex operations in production environments that could be found on a day-to-day basis.
In addition, we incorporated the possibility that while a student used the virtual reality program, the rest of the students and the teacher could view it through a television screen in real time.
In this way, we manage to turn individual learning into cooperative learning where, during the activity, the student receives feedback from the teacher and peers, thus generating stimulating and enriching learning for all.
The success of the application of virtual reality in the teaching-learning process of technical skills with the group of young people with special educational needs was reflected in an improvement in their level of employability. More than 50% of the students managed to access the job market in the 6 months after the end of the course.
Since then, we have been incorporating virtual reality in other professional specialties such as welding or vehicle painting. From our experience we can affirm that the application of virtual reality in education becomes an especially useful tool when we address groups with difficult labour insertion: young people with some type of intellectual disability; teenagers and young people at risk of social exclusion or who for some reason have not achieved the compulsory secondary education degree.
To conclude we want point out that the main advantages that we have verified in the application of virtual reality in the educational context of young people in vulnerable situations are:
1. Improves access to knowledge for young people with fewer opportunities or who come from vulnerable groups.
2. Increases the employability of young people by improving their chances of accessing the labour market.
3. It favours the learning of soft skills through cooperative and collaborative work.
4. Enhances the motivation of young people and consequently reduces disruptive behaviours in the classroom and school absenteeism.
5. It favours the inclusion of young people with disabilities by reducing barriers and favouring the development of their capacities.
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