Virtual Reality Bringing Futuristic Classes To Universities

Virtual reality is bringing the future to universities, with immersed online classes that take student's right into a learning environment.

By Jessica Marie Baumgartner | Published

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Virtual reality is no longer just for gaming. Some colleges have implemented VR in order to teach students in the comforts of their own homes. As a stronger need for virtual learning grew during the pandemic, digital classrooms and virtual teaching opportunities were developed and are expanding across American universities. 

VictoryXR began creating virtual education opportunities back in 2016, but 2020 was truly a breakthrough year. Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia approached the developer for more sophisticated higher education opportunities. In order to provide students with a sense of normalcy, the company’s CEO was determined to create a virtual reality replica of the university that allowed students to interact and learn together. 

In just 10 short weeks, professors at the school were able to create virtual reality curriculums which included biology classes, inorganic chemistry, and world history. Then Meta, also known as the company now controlling Facebook, partnered with VictoryXR to implement digital classrooms and expand to other universities. Morehouse College became the first in the world to offer metaverse classes, now this university, along with nine others will receive grants of $500,000 and VR headsets for working with VictoryXR.

These metaversities are to simulate in-person learning experiences. Students can work on projects together and communicate without the stiffness of zoom meetings. In addition, history lessons and science classes can more accurately illustrate factual events and display how they work with virtual reality representations.

What is still concerning to skeptics is the fact that although metaversities afford students with more life-like virtual reality interactions, these substitutes still cannot replace oxytocin-enhancing actions like hugs, high fives, and fist bumps. Touch is an important aspect of human health. Skin-to-skin sensations are not just experienced on the surface, but trigger hormones like oxytocin to elevate mood levels and better connect people. 

In addition, these metaversities harvest data as students utilize them. Instead of owning their private data, students engaging in virtual reality classes are giving it over to universities — which retain ownership depending on the headset brand used. Data collection and harvesting has become a huge business, so much so that data breaches are being experienced by schools at increasing levels. Hackers and cybercriminals are eager to obtain this information which can be detrimental to students’ security. 

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As if that weren’t concerning enough, all users must have a registered Facebook account. Being that Facebook has faced multiple anti-trust lawsuits, been fined for breaking privacy laws, and even admitted to censoring political opposition in order to sway public opinion on serious cultural matters in the United States, students seeking a free and fair education may be reluctant to join virtual reality metaversities or even maintain Facebook profiles. So as futuristic as this concept may be, a whole host of new problems are being found with the further development of VR learning for college students. 

So far the universities participating are: Morehouse College, the University of Kansas School of Nursing, New Mexico State University, South Dakota State University, West Virginia University, University of Maryland Global Campus, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Florida A&M University, California State University, and Alabama A&M University. Whether these virtual reality lessons will increase student interest or progress rates is unknown. For now, this experimental endeavor is being expanded through the business pursuits of Meta, the owner of Facebook, and that fact is being met with mixed reviews.