All About the History of Virtual Reality in Education

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All About the History of Virtual Reality in Education

By Chris Daily

Projected to reach over $84 billion by 2028, the virtual reality market is one of the fastest-growing in the world. These technologies are blowing up industries like business, entertainment, healthcare, and, yes, education.

Since it's difficult to pinpoint where a solution is headed without looking into its past, we're going to dive into VR's history today, Here, we're going to talk about the history of virtual reality specifically in the education sector. Read on to learn about VR's development... and to understand where these platforms are headed in 2022 and beyond.

The History of Virtual Reality in the Early Days

The foundation of virtual reality dates back to 1956. Morton Heilig, who had a heavy background in the film industry, designed a Sensorama machine to help people feel like they were inside the movie. This early VR system allowed people in the theater to simulate a motorcycle ride through a city in a virtual world, complete with multisensory experiences.

This paved the way for Ivan Sutherland to build a head-mounted device that immersed people inside a picture in 1965. This device was a sort of prototype for the VR headsets that later became popular in schools and other educational settings.

In the 80s, NASA developed a Virtual Interface Environment Workstation (VIEW) that allowed astronomers to move through a version of virtual space. These workstations used VR headsets in addition to gloves for tactile immersion in a virtual environment without the risk of the physical world.

As you can imagine, this wasn't just groundbreaking for research. It also gave educators a look into what VR systems and the VR experiences could do for students. They could examine VR content in new virtual environments such as space, faraway locations, art galleries, and even historical settings.

In the very beginning, these were just dreams. However, they later did become a reality.

VR's Foray Into Education

In the early days of virtual reality, the technologies weren't just limited. The software and technology were also extremely expensive. They couldn't immediately become mainstream in educational settings for both practical and financial reasons.

However, researchers and educators still wanted to shift classrooms to the use of virtual reality for some applications. While there were (and still are) practical limitations on what augmented reality is capable of, this educational technology can simulate environments that students otherwise would not have access to through their traditional education. This type of example allows for learners to learn new ideas and then the ability to reinforce concepts that can be carried through life.

Utilizing a new headset to experience immersive cutting edge educational content, concepts are reinforced resulting in improved learning outcomes.

In 2000, a mainstream study by researcher Alessandro Antonietti and his team proved that VR could benefit learning. Children were given a virtual tour using VR headsets of a complex painting and, after being allowed to examine all aspects of it, were better able to describe it than the non-VR-using control group.

In 2010, when the contemporary VR headset began to emerge, their integration in schools became more widespread. PC-connected VR headsets allowed students to zoom in on parts of a desktop screen and "immerse" themselves in an image. This interactive learning method was similar to a film but allowed learners to click on and explore an image on their own terms in a virtual world.

From there, educational VR continued to develop to include today's augmented reality technologies. 2014-2017 saw the progression of PC-connected VR headsets to console and mobile-tethered alternatives. Eventually, the standalone VR headset made VR into the independent platform that it is today.

The Present and Future of Educational VR

In 2021, virtual reality is used in a ton of different settings. Experts can receive training in how to improve their businesses with these technologies. Educators can come up with new ways to integrate immersive VR into classrooms regardless of the subject that they teach.

The cost of creating VR experiences as well as the cost of virtual reality headsets has continued to decrease. As the cost continues to decline, educational content will continue to promote VR as a viable educational technology.

Starting with Google Cardboard, low-cost VR headset alternatives have started to emerge, making the VR experience more obtainable. As new technology has continued to evolve, cutting-edge software will require external sensors embedded in controllers connecting to software that is capable of improving the VR experience through the inclusion of sensing motion in the VR headset and external controllers.

Some of the best VR headsets include HTC Vive and Oculus Quest. These VR headsets take advantage of new technology that shrinks the required hardware while improving the VR experience with improved high-resolution graphics and sound.

We use the Oculus VR headset as our virtual reality headset of choice. This VR system costs about the same as a Playstation VR headset and provides more flexibility as far as a VR headset goes.

Some applications that educators currently developed education content in virtual reality for include:

  • Training people in new skills
  • Letting people explore places they couldn't practically visit (virtual field trips)
  • Language and cultural immersion
  • Interaction with virtual people within the mixed reality setting
  • Teaching architecture, art, design, and other visually-based fields
  • The ability to collaborate long-distance with teachers and other students
  • Learning by playing engaging and interactive virtual reality gaming software

Because augmented (mixed) reality has been increasingly normalized in educational settings, it seems likely that there will be huge leaps in the next few years. Smart learning mixed reality through immersive VR is sure to become more common, especially with distance learning and the proliferation of the VR headset. 

The Power of Immersion

Currently, there are a few problems with the education system that virtual reality can solve. Fact retention isn't conducive to learning skills with applications, making this common classroom format ineffective. Additionally, since students can become overwhelmed with boring information, students often become disengaged.

Virtual reality relies on experience-based learning to teach students. This allows all learners to remain engaged and interested, whether they're visual learners or go-getters. The full sensory experiences emerging in virtual reality also give learners something to remember when trying to recall and apply educational content later.

Students who learn things by doing them also allow them to more easily understand how to use the skills that they're developing. Active learning inspires them to discover various aspects of the world around them and to take action within that world.

After someone learns something through the use of a Virtual Reality headset and applies the knowledge there, they'll have an example that can be applied to related real-life tasks.

All of these factors mean that virtual reality is one of the best advancements in education. Its history switched up the way that learning works today, and its present is bound to make the future even brighter.

Learn More About Virtual Reality Today

Now that you know the history of virtual reality in education, it's time to begin reaping its many benefits.

Go ahead and purchase a virtual reality headset. In addition to the educational aspects, virtual reality provides entertainment opportunities.

We use the Oculus VR headset as our virtual reality headset of choice. We believe it is one of the best VR headsets. We're looking forward to exploring other VR technology providers, including HP, and Playstation VR

We're committed to producing and delivering workshops and classroom experiences to you by incorporating engaging immersion opportunities for our learners.

We accomplish this by do this by reinforcing learning objectives through the use of VR technology and the inclusion of gamification and gaming concepts. We are focused on the development of new ideas, concepts, and services that create, connect, reinforce, and improve the learning experience.

Creating a virtual world where learners can experience and learn in a safe environment will revolutionize career development. Check out our concepts, ideas, videos, and experiences about Virtual Reality at

Contact us about how you can create and incorporate augmented and virtual reality technologies in your career development.

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