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Technology

Virtual Reality in the Classroom – A Rich Field for Developers

virtual reality classroom in education

Educators have long struggled with a seemingly impossible task – to conform the curriculum and the learning environment to meet the specific needs of each individual learner.

However, with advancements in virtual reality being implemented in the classroom, this lofty though somewhat impractical ambition may now be within reach.

In the field of EdTech – the development and management of technology designed to facilitate the delivery and assimilation of information – developers are finding not only a receptive and enthusiastic market but a profitable one as well.

Additionally, those considering a career in the field of education technology can be encouraged by recently published data. 

Behind the Numbers

In a report put out by Grand View Research, the value of the global education technology market increased by over 18% in 2020, compared to its value in 2019. The Covid-19 pandemic surely played a large role in this increase as educators became more reliant on technology in order to conduct their lessons remotely. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.

Similar increases in the market were recorded in the years leading up to 2020, and the trend is projected to continue into the foreseeable future. 

While the gaming and entertainment sectors still draw a larger percentage of developers working in VR, EdTech is not lagging far behind and has been gaining traction lately. The is due, in part, to the untapped potential the field represents. 

In an annual study conducted by the Software and Information Industry Association, nearly 1,000 educators were polled and the overwhelming conclusion was that educators felt “the ideal level of technology integration is significantly higher than current levels.”

In a booming industry with such a high demand for more products, more platforms, and greater integration, it’s no wonder EdtEch firms stand out as great opportunities for developers looking to make a smart career move. 

The Major Players

Unimersiv

Founded in 2015, today Unimersib represents the largest platform for virtual reality experiences designed for educational purposes. Every month they add a new VR environment to their collection which already boasts the International Space Station, the human brain, ancient Rome, and many more.

While educators see the potential in virtual reality, allowing the learners to explore environments that would otherwise be impossible to access, it is clear from user reviews that the potential has yet to be reached. 

Alchemy VR

A part of Alchemy Immersive, they are a production company that teams up with major corporations and institutions such as Google Expeditions, Sony, the National History Museum in London, the Australian Museum in Sydney, and others. 

To date, they have created platforms that allow users to explore a diversity of environments from the Great Barrier Reef to the life of a bee in a hive.

zSpace

zSpace is unique in the VR EdTech field in that it doesn’t bring the classroom into a virtual reality environment. Instead, it takes the environment and brings it into the classroom. 

Their headset technology acts very much in the way that 3D glasses at the cinema work. They bring the elements off the screen and allow the learners to study and explore them in a virtual three-dimensional way. 

Though they target their software to classrooms of younger learners, their technology has been particularly well developed for applications in medical training as well.

Boulevard

Assembling a group of seasoned curators, educators, and engineers, Boulevard aims to deliver a fully-immersive art experience to the user. The Boulevard app, used in conjunction with Oculus technology, allows users to explore the permanent collections and temporary exhibitions of different museums throughout the United States and England.

Author Neil Gaiman is an advisory board member and even guides users, virtually, through some of the exhibitions.

EdTech – Shattering Investment Records

EdTech’s target user is not limited only to schools. EdTech innovations are also used for corporate and medical training. 

With the increased demand for technology in learning facilities, a number of start-ups have been created to try and meet that demand. One of the major challenges facing any start-up is securing capital, attracting investors.

The good news for developers and entrepreneurs looking to get into the EdTech field is that EdTech start-ups continue to attract billions of dollars from investors.

The annual report on learning technology investments published by Metaari shows that the level of investments in EdtEch has more than doubled in less than 2 years from $16.34 billion invested in 2018 to $36.38 billion in 2020.

While a massive amount of funding went to companies in China, US learning technology developers still accounted for over 44% of all global EdTech investments in 2020. The report tracked investments that were spread out to over 300 companies in the US and over 120 in China as well as to dozens more throughout Europe and Asia.

AI-based learning platforms receive the lion’s share of investments based on the relatively quick turnaround and application this technology promises. As VR technology continues to improve and to find more and more in-class applications, we can expect to see the gap between investments in AI and VR shrink in the near future.

Technologies and Applications Around the Bend

Like any sector of activity, the direction of EdtEch is largely determined by the expressed needs and wants of the target user. Educators and administrators are overwhelmingly calling for more access to STEM materials (Science, Technology, Engineering, Match).

To meet this demand, more and more EdTech companies are focusing on developing engaging curriculum for training in robotics, coding, and programming.

Additionally, cybersecurity and data privacy continue to be major concerns for educators, administrators, and learners. Consequently, companies looking to either break into the EdTech market or to expand on their current market share are placing a greater emphasis on improving the effectiveness of the data protection and privacy measures of their software and platforms. 

Takeaway

More and more educators, administrators, and learners alike are seeking solutions that allow for an expansion of the classroom. Whether to conduct fully remote learning sessions or virtual environments that can complement the physical classroom, there is a high demand for more technology in the classroom.

Technological advancements have also affected the overall philosophy behind teaching and learning. The concept of gamification – the application of game elements and game design in traditionally non-game contexts – has become very popular among educators and learners. 

This means that in contrast to the market of 6 or 7 years ago, now developers who have a passion for games and game design do not need to go into the riskier niche of gaming to exercise their creative talents. Instead, they can find a creative game-centered outlet in the many companies and start-ups working in EdTech.

Furthermore, as studies published by Metaari indicate, there has never been a better time for EdTech start-ups looking to secure investments.

Virtual reality in the classroom, and to a broader extent EdTech overall, is a rich and promising field for creative and ambitious developers.

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