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Virtual reality aids in experiential learning for New Zealand students

Experiential learning for the 21st Century is being provided by the Victoria University of Wellington School of Management through the use of virtual reality (VR), according to a recent report.

Learning through reflection on doing has always been an important tool in educating students by enabling them to bridge theory and practice.

For the students of sustainable tourism, the field trip is crucial to understanding the realities of life in the far-flung paradises people want to visit.

But it would be difficult to reconcile emissions-producing plane trips to a Pacific island being affected by climate change, with a course focused on sustainability.

Here enters the immersive, interactive and complex environments offered by VR, which was utilised to replicate an island in Fiji in the throes of developing a local tourism industry.

It is a case study, but like nothing currently seen in the area of sustainability studies. In terms of helping students understand the material, using VR is a step forward for teaching and changing things up.

Understanding the needs of local communities impacted by tourism is an essential part of sustainable development.

Because of this, there are actual residents whose stories, perspectives and aspirations will give students a more complete understanding of the situation, on the virtual island.

14 different stakeholders on the island will provide the needed human contact and interaction. Videos of them speaking to questions were taken.

After which, they were incorporated into the island in the place where they were filmed for their interview.

Keeping the authenticity will leave the students with the idea that this is relevant and happening in real life. These are real people dealing with real issues and this is why sustainability really is important.

Gaming software, paired with a VR headset, was used to create a highly immersive experience. The sound of crashing waves was incorporated to situate the student on that island, giving them emotional connection to it.

The innovative adoption of VR has inspired interest from other groups to use the technology in similar ways.

Thus, a “road map” to creating a virtual field trip, advocating the use of VR in education in order to present information in a meaningful way so that the students can actually get it and end up caring.

Building on the Confucian wisdom of, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn”, Dr Christian Scott is making the case for experiential learning as a particular educational concept.

He is looking as what is needed in an environment of experiential learning so it can be incorporated in VR environments.

But since most of these aspects are already inherent in VR, then the technology can be utilised. The education community should be informed of the potential of VR for education.

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