For the HE/FE and training sector I am sure that the last month or so has been about coping with rapid changes needed to deliver the summer term's learning on-line, and that most of this has been focused around VLEs, Zoom and the like.
However as it increasingly seems that the "new normal" will impact teaching and learning for probably at least a year, to what extent will FE and HE institutions and commercial training organisations take the opportunity to have a fresh look at immersive 3D and VR solutions. Whilst VLEs, video lectures and Zoom tutorials can deliver a lot of useful content, they will struggle with the sense and context of being there, of learning vocational skills, and of working on physical collaborative tasks. Physical teaching time may be even more limited, and social distancing measures may further reduce the effectiveness.
Of course institutions (and other organisations) are likely to be feeling real impact on budgets, particularly for HE from reduced numbers of overseas students, and possibly even of UK students, and the media are reporting of costs of £1-2m per degree to move to distance learning. And in these stressful times it may be that IT departments, eLearning teams and tutors just fallback on the comfort of familiar (if not totally prevalent) technologies of video lectures and lessons/seminars by video conferencing.
Having been involved in using immersive 3D (and lately VR) for training and education for over a decade it does very feel like a technology whose time has come. We are already seeing an increase in the use of the technology for virtual events (where there is no need to generate content as such), and using it for remote training and learning is surely the next step. That said, the focus may well be on the "immersive 3D" aspect rather than VR unless institutions want to pay for a headset per student - the days of sharing may well be over! Also our key argument remains that you need to be able to create your own content so you can adapt to student need - rather than commissioning "one-offs" from design led VR agencies.
As we at Daden get ready to launch Trainingscapes 2.0 (the updated version of our Fieldcapes application) we feel that Trainingscapes is uniquely positioned to help deliver 3D immersive learning within the "new normal", in particular:
- It is not a VR only, or even VR led, tool, and is happy supporting uses on smartphones, tablets, laptops and PCs, as well as those lucky enough to have (home) access to a VR headset
- It has an intuitive content authoring system so that eLearning teams, tutors and even students can create their own 3D/VR content - so you can iterate and scale quickly and at low cost
We're trying to get a feel from those we know working at the "coal face" of education in HE and FE as to how they see the next year panning out - and to what extent they see immersive 3D and VR solutions as being a part of the "new normal" mix, and we'll see about passing on some of feedback we get. But we're always interested in the wider view - so if you're readin gthis then please feel free to add your view in the comments.
These are interesting, challenging and distressing times, but perhaps a richer educational and training environment can be one of the legacies.