Harnessing Virtual Reality to Enhance STEM Education

Dr. Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist, notes that by studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), Australians can open diverse career paths that offer numerous job options. The key, he adds, is that at all educational levels, students must be prepared for those roles. In spite of similar data being true for the United States — its Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that STEM jobs will see a 30 percent increase by 2022 — statistics show that nearly 70 percent of students in STEM degree programs in that country drop out of them.

Using Virtual Reality to Bridge Theory and Practicality

The information gathered by the National Center for Education Statistics, an agency overseen by the Board of Education in the United States indicates that an inability for students to connect STEM with the practicalities of their everyday lives and its intense theory are key reasons for this startling statistic. Virtual reality, a method of bridging this gap is gaining traction as brings STEM concepts to life in a hands-on manner that appeals to today’s students.

Tangible Benefits of Using Virtual Reality

Using virtual reality to teach complex and abstract concepts in a concrete way involves designing and utilising technology-based worlds. This typically means that multiple users are able to interact with one another or their surroundings in a computer-based environment.

Reduces Negativity Associated With Learning New Concepts – Virtual reality is used to represent STEM ideas that might otherwise be difficult for students to understand if presented to them in real life. Using virtual reality to do so can help reduce the embarrassment and apprehension that can often stand in the way of experimentation.

Solidify Learning Objectives – Virtual reality allows students to repeat the lesson as often as they want or need to. This provides the reinforcement they need to better understand the complex concepts that make up STEM.

Increased Interactions – Students who share a virtual reality event become more adept at social interactions with their peers because of their shared experience. This became evident when compared to their interactions that are limited solely to email.

Significant Range of Customisation – Typically, the educator provides a framework in which the students learn. By using virtual reality to these grasp STEM concepts, students are provided with the control in which to explore and expand independently. This differs sharply from other types of learning modules.

Improved Problem Solving and Decision Making – Using virtual reality helps ensure that no two students have exactly the same experience. Depending on the student’s decision-making and subsequent problem skills, improved learning and advanced conceptualisation of learning objectives is achieved.

Enhanced Learning – Due to the hands-on nature of virtual reality — students feel as if they are living and interacting with the information — the retention rate for STEM material delivered in this manner is about 90 percent.

Increased Engagement – Each student will find that certain STEM concepts hold their attention better than others. Virtual reality delivers all STEM concepts in an engaging environment that encourages students to devote their 100 percent of their attention to the task at hand.

Australian students slated to spend time in China in an exchange environment were exposed to different aspects of the country’s language and culture in a virtual reality world. The innovative program provided teachers with the ability to build, create and teach about 100 students through the use of virtual reality. Research that delved into the results of this program discovered that the above benefits were demonstrated by the students’ participation in the virtual reality program.