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18 Sep 2020

As Featured in the Evening Standard

The Future of Learning

Emma Gibbins looks into virtual and augmented learning experiences and the benefits to schools and students – and how this has become ever more valuable in 2020

Evening Standard, 14/09/20, Emma Gibbins

The ongoing digitisation of the world and the increase in remote studying has created a growing appetite for immersive technology within the education sector. It is highly likely, particularly post-pandemic, that learning environments will very soon be changing.

It wasn’t long ago that the concept of virtual reality was something you only read about in science fiction books. But in recent years, there’s been a rapid increase in the number of industries adopting and benefiting from this type of technology. Tools like this have the potential to enhance efficiency and unlock new possibilities for industries everywhere – and the education sector is no different.   Although many schools opened this month, there’s no doubt the ramifications of the virus will be felt for a long time. Sam Hyams, founder of the careers platform, Springpod, emphasises the importance of educators making their virtual offering as advanced as possible. “One of the biggest concerns among our network of students is their ability to participate in work experience placements, for which many, forms a key part of their educational courses,” he says.

“Although many schools opened this month, there’s no doubt the ramifications of the virus will be felt for a long time

The virtual work experience programmes enable students to gain experience with employers remotely.  “We plan on using technologies like virtual and augmented reality to supplement these programmes as they have the potential to transport students to any location,” he explains. “Imagine being given a tour of the Airbus A380 assembly line, walking into an NHS operating theatre, or being guided around a commercial real estate project, all from your home. These technologies enable us to bring students into the work environment, at scale, reducing the cost for employers and empowering the next generation to develop their skills while in-person work experience isn’t feasible.”  

Hannah Titley, teacher and founder of the home school group, The Golden Circle, tells me she too, is keen to incorporate these types of technologies into lesson plans as they become more readily available and affordable. “Our home school families are always keen to use technology in lessons to enhance learning,” she says. “We’ve already used virtual reality headsets with some of our students, as they have this equipment for gaming. Although there’s limited educational content available at the moment, Number Hunt has been a hit with some of our less enthusiastic maths students.”

But Hannah says that while virtual learning can be a powerful supplement, she doesn’t believe it can be a substitute for great quality teaching – largely because it makes it harder for teachers to interact with their students. “I also have concerns over the widening gap between children who ‘have’ and those that ‘have not’ – and the pandemic has only highlighted this gap,” she says. “I worry that it could put some students at a disadvantage.”

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