Virtual reality (VR) has reached maturity as a product and has taken advantage of new technology innovations such as increased computing power (particularly graphics processing) and improved head mounted displays (HMDs). VR has been shown to cause a significant improvement in learning and has also increased the accuracy of medical and biomedical tasks (Ref 1-2). The Horizon 2019 report written by the organisation EDUCAUSE predicts that VR will be mainstream in universities within 2-3 years with the technology worth $100-200 billion globally by 2022 (Ref 3).
Our group have conducted an evaluation of VR and its application in higher education (HE), biomedical teaching with over 300 staff and students at The University of Manchester and Central Manchester Foundation Trust. The evaluations involved a 45-60 minute session for each participant who experienced 5-6 VR software apps selected for their specific discipline. The participants then completed a 20 question survey which covered the hardware, software and their views on the use of this technology in HE. Our results have highlighted a tremendous amount of interest for the use of VR in higher education (HE). The questions and responses include:
• Would you more likely enrol on a course that includes VR as a teaching tool?
This question was answered by 296 participants. Of these, 213 (72%) answered “Yes”; 46 (15%) answered “Maybe”; 31 (10%) answered “NA” (these were typically older staff and/or administration who no longer wished to take courses); 6 (2%) answered “No”.
• Would VR enhance your learning experience?
This question was answered by 299 participants. Of these, 247 (82%) answered “Yes”; 28 (9%) answered “Maybe”; 22 (7%) answered “NA”; 2 (0.7%) answered “No”.
• Would you use VR in your teaching? (Lecturers only)
This question was answered by 156 lecturers. Of these, 124 (80%) answered “Yes”; 26 (17%) answered “Maybe”; 6 (4%) answered “No”.
The results indicated a strong desire for the use of VR in biomedical HE and suggests that this technology would attract students and enhance learning. The costs of VR technology has reduced significantly in recent years making this a viable teaching tool for UK universities. With increasing global competition between universities, the threat of lower tuition fees and the need to improve student engagement, this learning tool is likely to provide a competitive advantage to early adopters. Its potential to supplement often expensive medical/biomedical practical classes is also an incentive for universities to invest.
During our investigation we also found that commercially available VR software was inadequate in terms of level (it was largely A level standard or lower) and content for higher education teaching. This prompted our University of Manchester team to create a spin-out company “VREvo” aimed at developing higher education biomedical VR content that includes both simulations and 3D/360/8K video. This session will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of adopting VR tech in UK universities. It will outline the results of our 7 month evaluation with lecturers and students and discuss how our University of Manchester spin-out company can help support VR integration into the biomedical curriculum.
1. Johnston APR, Rae J, Ariotti N, Bailey B, Lilja A, Webb R, Ferguson C, Maher S, Davis TP, Webb RI, McGhee J, Parton RG. Journey to the centre of the cell: Virtual reality immersion into scientific data. Traffic. 2018.19(2):105-110. doi: 10.1111/tra.12538.
2. Samadbeik M, Yaaghobi D, Bastani P, Abhari S, Rezaee R, Garavand A. The Applications of Virtual Reality Technology in Medical Groups Teaching. J Adv Med Educ Prof. 2018 Jul;6(3):123-129.
3. Alexander B, Ashford-Rowe K, Barajas-Murphy N, Dobbin G, Knott J, McCormack M, Pomerantz J, Seilhamer R, Weber N. EDUCAUSE Horizon Report 2019 Higher Education Edition. ISBN 978-1-933046-02-0