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Essay from Jacqueline Marie Krantz – Second ThePensters Writing Contest Medalist #3

Virtually Realistic?

Many children have watched movies and read books in which the characters pass notes in class, but hardly any have passed notes themselves. Texting has replaced note-passing. Most children have taken written notes in their classes, but as college approaches, notebooks are traded for computers or tablets. Gone are the days of note passing and note-taking solely on paper; technology is taking over. However, the chances of technology completely overtaking the traditional classroom are slim to none. Virtual reality (VR) applications in the traditional classroom setting will likely become widespread, but VR classrooms will never take over traditional education because of the overwhelming benefits of traditional classrooms and the inability to distribute the technology to everyone.

While virtual reality in the classroom has already become an actuality, a VR class would be something completely different. The concept of a VR class involves generating a cooperative digital environment for people in separate locations. According to the Virtual Reality Society, virtual reality is “the term used to describe a three-dimensional, computer generated environment which can be explored and interacted with by a person.” [1] Pairing this term with the word “class” suggests that nothing about the classroom will be real, but the participants would be able to use the senses of sight, hearing, and touch to receive information as if the surroundings were real. VR has already been introduced to several classrooms around the United States for applications such as exploring World War I trenches [2] and creating visualizations of settings in books. [3] The difference between classrooms utilizing VR and VR classes is that, with the present-day applications, students and teachers can take off the VR headsets, switch classes, and mingle with other students and teachers. In a VR class, students would never have to leave the comfort of their homes to see and socialize with others.

If student education was limited to VR classes, many of the benefits of traditional education would be lost. For example, research has shown that subjects aged preschool through adult remember letters and shapes better if the symbols are learned via handwriting rather than typing. [4-6] This suggests that a student learning in a VR class would not retain as much information because note-taking would be virtual if it even existed at all. Another important consideration lies with children with special needs. Students with emotional imbalances would find it even harder to focus without someone physically there to keep them on-task, and those with severe disabilities may not want to wear any VR headset at all. For students of all ability levels, face-to-face learning is essential.

Virtual reality classrooms would face another difficulty in distributing necessary materials. In many third-world nations, students do not have access to traditional classrooms, let alone VR technology. [7] Even the United States is still struggling to provide Wi-Fi, a “powerful tool for transforming learning,” to its schools, community colleges, and universities. [8] VR classrooms cannot be expected to exist in an environment where basic educational needs cannot be met. Before virtual reality classrooms became the norm in the US, the current financial and logistical problems of traditional classrooms would have to be solved.

While the digitalization of many aspects of the world is inevitable, the complete shift to virtual reality classes from traditional education is neither feasible nor recommendable. Traditional classrooms already provide healthy, easily obtainable learning spaces for the youth of tomorrow just as they have since the dawn of education. Technology is certainly a useful tool that can be incorporated to enhance the traditional learning experience, and no school is perfect, but virtual reality classrooms would create more problems than they would solve.


  1. https://www.vrs.org.uk/virtual-reality/what-is-virtual-reality.html
  2. https://www.weareteachers.com/virtual-reality-classroom/
  3. http://www.arvrmagazine.com/vr-in-education-whats-already-happening-in-the-classroom/
  4. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001691804001167
  5. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0167945706000649
  6. http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/154193120905302218
  7. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/worst-schools-world/
  8. https://tech.ed.gov/what-we-do/

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