The CITE, a blog published by the National Association of College Stores, takes a look at the intersection of education and technology, highlighting issues that range from course materials to learning delivery to the student experience. Comments, discussion, feedback, and ideas are welcome.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Higher Ed Keeping an Eye on VR

The release of two consumer virtual-reality headsets has more people thinking about buying the product, particularly those in the world of immersive games and interactive videos. That has caught the attention of higher education, according to Carl Straumsheim in a column for Inside Higher Education.

“The technology still has a way to go, but early adopters of virtual reality imagine a future in which students go on field trips around the world from the comfort of the VR lab, joined by tour guides who connect to the class remotely,” Straumsheim wrote. “Students in online programs, instead of only interacting with their classmates through discussion forums, meet in virtual classrooms, where they can lean over and talk to their neighbors or work together on a problem on a blackboard.”

Despite the excitement over VR, there are still some concerns that must be addressed, starting with cost. The two commercial headsets released earlier this year cost at least $600 each, and that doesn’t include the gaming computers needed to use them.

Headsets are clunky and wireless technology remains years away. In addition, some users have experienced eyestrain and a type of motion sickness caused by the difference between what the eye sees and the ear senses.

“Costs will come down, the software might be easier to develop, and the technology will continue to advance,” Nitocris Perez, an emerging-technology specialist at Indiana University, Bloomington, told Straumsheim. “I don’t think it’s going to be tomorrow, but three years from now things will be radically different.”

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