We’ve been hearing a lot of stuff about how virtual reality will change the way we learn new things. And not only that, it will help increase the speed at which we learn new things and grasp new concepts.
That’s the most important thing in life if you think about it. A person that can learn quickly and can creatively use that information and can connect different dots, is the one that will be successful.
I know this is a very cliched example but think about Jeff Bezos. He realized that the internet was still in its infancy when he launched Amazon. He saw the opportunity of people wanting the convenience of being able to buy books online.
And soon after that, he expanded the things that he sold on his website. Fast forward to 2021, Amazon is the biggest e-commerce website in the world.
Imagine if other people were able to connect similar dots like that. And not just connecting the dots, imagine if they can do it in a fast and efficient way. VR helps with that.
The Educational Environment We Currently Have
The educational environments that we have right now, are too slow compared to how fast things are moving these days. If you think about it, we are still using the learning methods our ancestors used in the 1800s – sitting in a lecture and taking notes. And when you want to prepare for a test, what do you do?
We know that is the best way to retain more information because visual images and oral instructions are just not enough. Our brain is only able to retain a small percentage of information that way.
The best way to learn is to have students perform tasks that are a direct application of what they will be learning. Let me perform those tasks themselves and find the solutions. The creativity they will use to find those solutions will help them retain a majority of that information because it is not something that someone standing near a blackboard shouting some stuff and them taking notes.
It was them running into roadblocks and finding their way out of that and reaching a solution. That is harder to forget than the notes that they type on their laptop.
We need to speed up the learning process of people so they can consume more information and more importantly, retain a majority of that information so they can use it creatively as I mentioned.
That is what this article from AR/VR Tips is about – 3 ways VR will accelerate the speed at which we learn new things.
So What Is VR Doing To the Brain That Makes It AMuch Better Learning Tool Than the Traditional Visual and Oral Instructions?
We all know that our brain is very good at pattern recognition. So once any new information is absorbed through the five senses, the brain creates a new mental map of the environment to store that information.
Those things might be the way you were sitting, how you were feeling, etc. when you consumed that info. That helps the brain locate the information in itself. Think of those things as pointers to the file location.
So the more information that it consumes, the more our cognition develops. The more our cognition develops, the better it gets at predicting patterns and knowing what will happen next.
The key thing here is immersing yourself in an experience that lets the brain create those pointers so it can quickly refer to that info that you’re looking for.
With the traditional way of education, there is hardly any immersion. This makes it harder for the brain to predict because it does not have any practical experience of being in that particular situation.
All it can do is refer to the information stored in the memory and make the best guess of how the situation would turn out. In most cases, the brain has to fill huge gaps to reach a certain conclusion. That is where the problem is. If it makes mistakes when filling those gaps, the stored info in the memory is of no use.
That is where VR technology comes in. It immerses the brain into a simulated environment that lets it figure things out on its own. This creates new neural connections that are needed to learning new things and storing the information. And the best part? It does not have to fill any gaps on its own.
So, if it took you 3 hours to learn something complex, with the help of VR technology, you’d be able to learn the same thing in about 2 hours or even less than that.
Walmart started doing VR training for their new employees and they cut down their day-long training sessions to just ~15 minutes of VR training sessions.
It turned out that the VR training sessions were just as impactful as spending an entire day learning the same thing.
1. It Immerses You
Immersion is the name of the game. As I mentioned above, your brain is very good at consuming information. But the problem is, it is like a bad WiFi antenna that isn’t focused on one computer or smartphone. It just beams WiFi signals everywhere and so you get a lower range.
You want to make sure that it is focusing those beams on the devices that you are using so you can get a better internet connection and also have a longer range.
To translate – you need to control the inputs of your senses.
By immersing yourself in a simulated VR environment, you are almost shutting off your other senses except your sight and hearing. And since it is very immersive, your brain thinks that the virtual world is real.
And according to a study done at the University of Maryland in 2018, immersing yourself in that environment helps people retain a LOT more information.
Not only that, it also creates new “schemas” that help the brain learn how to react in different environments when in the real-world. Which means, that the new neural connections and synapses that are created during this VR learning session will also improve the way students learn in other areas of their life.
2. It Enhances Memory
With the tools we are currently using in educational environments, most people forget 90% of what they learned after a month. And if that wasn’t shocking, they forget 50% of that info within an hour. 70% of that info is forgotten after a day.
Hermann Ebbinghaus, a German psychologist named this ‘the forgetting curve’. He discovered this in the 1880s.
To this day, we are still using the same oral and image-based learning methods.
This makes the case for learning in a VR simulation stronger because the brain thinks that the simulated world is the real-world. That means there will be some things that will trigger an emotional reaction which is another thing that the brain can use to create that pointer I mentioned at the start of this article. Hence increasing the learning capacity of that person.
In the University of Maryland study that I mentioned in my previous point, they asked 40 participants to perform a task using a VR headset. And then they were asked to perform the same task, but this time without the headset. The researchers found that there was an 8.8% improvement in the memory of the people that were using the VR headsets.
3. You Are More “Present” When You Are Immersed
Researchers at the Department of Psychology at the University of Regensburg made a connection between how present a student was and their learning curves and how much information they were able to retain to apply into real-life situations.
As you might have guessed, students that weren’t engaged were not able to learn a lot and they also weren’t able to retain most of the information to apply in real-life situations.
But, when you are in a VR simulation, you HAVE to be engaged because it is so interactive.
There is no person standing in front of a blackboard shouting stuff for you to take notes about.
You have to interact with the information to learn.
And before you know it, you are immersed in it which optimizes your efficiency at learning new things and also retaining most of it.