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Monday, April 16, 2018

Prevent a Virtual Divide Before It Happens

As new technologies enter the learning landscape, educators need to ensure their introduction doesn’t create a “digital divide 2.0,” wrote Emory Craig, director of e-learning and instructional technologies, College of New Rochelle, New Rochelle, NY, in a piece for EdTech: Focus on Higher Education.

Virtual (VR) and augmented reality (AR) are already beginning to offer virtual labs and field trips, interactive storytelling, and immersive world-building experiences. However, the cost of some VR headsets and the computers capable of supporting them can be quite high.

Lower-cost systems so far tend to confirm the truism that you get what you pay for. While Google Cardboard offers an easy-to-use, affordable option, its visual experience is poorer and interactivity is limited by the lack of a hand controller.

Newer, standalone VR headsets that don’t require a smartphone or external computer may prove to be workable solutions. Facebook, which has a stated goal of getting a billion people using virtual reality, plans to release at least two standalone devices this year through Oculus VR. Google and the Taiwanese company HTC Corp. both have standalone VR headsets in the pipeline as well.

Craig suggested that dedicated spaces or events, available to everyone on a campus, will broaden access to VR and AR experiences. “In the near future, we may see VR headset carts, checkout stations, and even lease/purchase initiatives in some academic programs,” he said, adding that institutions could also host events to allow students and faculty to experiment with rented or demo devices.

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