"Before going into practice, students can practise their conversation techniques endlessly with Max, our virtual client."
The power of XR
The adoption of XR in education is still in its infancy but is starting to seep through more and more. More and more courses want to do something with XR. For this special, we took a tour of the fields with the central question of what is the power and added value of XR for education in practice?
A second life
Gert-Jan Verheij (RUG) likes the idea of inventing new educational concepts and using technology to take another step forward. "In the Virtual Kindergarten class, a student wearing VR glasses stands in a circle with 20 toddlers around him who regularly crawl under a chair, stand up and walk away. A great exercise in keeping order. With the Virtual Kindergarten Class, you as a student get, in the words of the gaming world, a second life. If it becomes chaos in the classroom at your first lesson, you just start again. In real life, it is difficult to rectify a bad first impression. In VR, that's not a problem."
Students at the Police Academy especially need to train in an authentic context, notes Giny Verschoor, who works there as product owner Knowledge & Research and Virtual Training. "The first nine months of training, they are still in the academy a lot and move around little in practice. But they also want to do things. The big advantage of VR is that they suddenly find themselves in a drug lab or at a crime scene. Students like that and the interaction also makes the lesson material stick better." Feedback, she says, plays an important role in this. For example, in the VR module Vrange with which students prepare for a shooting test. "Then it is not about the students learning to shoot better, but mainly about them standing on the range for their first shooting lesson, confident and knowledgeable about rules and safety. In this way, VR makes education more efficient. Also for the teacher because they can get straight to the point on the shooting range."
Safe practice environment
Dramatherapy lecturer Astrid Timman also sees that her HAN students benefit greatly from VR. "Before they actually go into practice, they can practice their conversation techniques endlessly with Max, our virtual client," she says. Professor of Biobased Chemistry and Technology Harry Bitter (WUR) is happy that modern techniques allow him to add something new to the common image of a person in a white coat doing experiments in a lab. "In a virtual lab, students can practice freely and it doesn't matter if glass breaks on the ground or the whole thing explodes. I like the fact that we can offer students a safe practice environment so they come into the real lab better prepared."
"A virtual simulation can be a trigger to develop more empathy."
According to John Walker (SURF), little is yet known about the impact of technology and XR on (professional) relationships. But it is known that XR can add value in therapeutic sessions. "For example, when an offender is put in the role of victim in a virtual environment and experiences what that means. Think of situations around bullying, misogynistic behaviour or racist treatment. A virtual simulation can be a trigger to develop more empathy."
A success factor in XR that should not be underestimated is that the virtual environment you create should be as credible as possible. "That is very important. As a student, do you really feel that you are in a nuclear power plant or at a shipyard? It has to be right down to the detail," said Arno Freeke (TU Delft). Verschoor couldn't agree more. "We may not have the money to build a near-perfect virtual world like Call of Duty, but we need to make sure the details in our VR modules are right. Think of a weapon, a uniform or a police car. When it is not right, teachers and students drop out. At the same time, you also have to ask yourself how realistic you want to be and what you want to expose students to. For example, in the VR module dealing with death."
"In real life, it is difficult to rectify a bad first impression. In VR, that's not a problem."
Less burden on practice
The added value of XR for education ultimately pays off in practice as well. According to Maurice Magnée of the HAN, the first step of the ambitions within DUTCH* is to replace half of the current practical hours in the courses for surgery assistant, nurse anaesthetist and radiodiagnostic laboratory technician with physical and/or virtual simulation. In step two, scale up to other healthcare professionals. "This way, you put much less burden on the practice, and given the huge workload and lack of internships in healthcare, this is a good thing. And the importance of VR is growing anyway because of the increasing digitalisation of healthcare."
How cool is this
Besides the added value for teaching practice, there is also such a thing as 'the wow factor'. "Once staff have put on glasses and experienced what VR is and can do, they are sold," says Freeke. Verschoor can confirm this. "We now have hundreds of people using VR at our company and almost everyone is like wow, how cool is this. If there is any criticism at all, it is usually about the content: is that shooting stance quite right?"
*DUTCH (Digital United Training Concepts for Healthcare) is a collective of University Medical Centres, training institutions, top clinical and general hospitals, (technical) universities and public and private parties within Educational and Medical Technology. DUTCH aims to bring about a transformation of training, upskilling and retraining of healthcare professionals through scalable digital learning tools and physical and virtual simulation.