Last Updated: Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Virtual Reality in a Scottish context

What is this?

This briefing explores approaches to the use of virtual reality in a classroom context.

Who is this for?

Practitioners who want to consider how their classroom practice might be improved by aspects of virtual reality.

Virtual reality or VR immerses users in a digital environment that appears real. For example, the Anne Frank House museum has developed an app that can be used with a VR headset. The app allows learners to explore the Secret Annexe as it would have appeared during the years when it hid the occupants from discovery and arrest.

The potential for classroom use of VR include:

  • Accessing physical sites that would normally be difficult or impossible due to logistical or health and safety issues
  • Exploring simulations of historic environments
  • Investigating artefacts
  • Providing immersive experiences that enhance approaches to active learning
  • Enhancing collaborative learning opportunities

Perceived barriers to the use of this technology into the classroom have included:

  • Costs
  • Connectivity
  • Classroom management of devices
  • Availability of educational content
  • Health and safety concerns
  • Relevant research into educational benefits

VR has been around for some time, but recent developments – improvements in headset technology and reduced costs, enhanced internet access and broadband speeds in schools, the development of relevant content including teacher produced resources, advice around safe and secure use of the technology - have increased its potential for use in the classroom.

A Scottish Context

  • In 2018 East Renfrewshire Council was the first education authority in the UK to invest in the roll out of VR headsets to all thirty of its primary and secondary schools
  • West Lothian Inclusion & Support Service use VR headsets in their professional learning offer, to support practitioner understanding of the needs of learners with additional support needs
  • At Erskine Stewart’s Melville Schools in Edinburgh Simon Luxford-Moore, the schools’ Head of eLearning, has led on the integration of virtual reality into everyday lessons. For example, VR was used to support learning during Black History Month and across curricular areas such as Language, History and RMPS (2021)
  • In March 2021 North Lanarkshire launched the first Immersive Classroom in Scotland
  • The Digital Learning and Teaching blog from Falkirk illustrates approaches to the use of VR in a classroom setting
  • Virtual Reality for early education is a research paper from St Andrew’s University that describes the application of VR in an S1 project exploring St Andrew’s Cathedral in the middle ages

This briefing complements information around Emerging technologies, emerging practices on the National Improvement Hub.

Improvement questions

  1. What are the barriers to the use of virtual reality in your classroom setting? How could you overcome these?
  2. What learning outcomes would you plan for where VR is being integrated into your classroom teaching; how could you engage with other practitioners for further support?
  3. How can you connect with learners and parents/carers to explain and share the benefits of VR?
  4. How can you develop your existing classroom resources to support the experience of VR?