Virtual reality has been proven to be a valuable educational tool. Classroom VR has evolved from a gimmick to entertain students, to a bonafide audiovisual learning method. The most important aspects of using education VR are the hardware and the software. On this page we will focus on the best VR headsets for in the classroom, and we will address how this connects to the selection of educational content. We also discussed how to use VR Sync to start teaching with VR in your school.
Virtual reality in the classroom
There are two ways to approach educational virtual reality; classroom VR and decentralized education in VR.
1. Classroom VR
In a room full of students one virtual reality device can be limited. It’s possible to dedicate a room or corner for a VR setup including PC, monitor and a VR headset. Another approach is the use of multiple VR headsets that are synced wirelessly so students can experience the same content simultaneously.
2. Decentralised education VR
This is a completely different approach to VR learning. Students can be in any location, provided there is an active internet connection. Besides self-study with a preset curriculum there’s also the option to hold lectures and lessons in a virtual classroom. You can compare this method to a Skype video call, but using immersive VR headsets instead of a static screen.
Because the second option poses additional challenges and requires custom solutions, we will focus on classroom VR where there’s more control over the surroundings.
What to look for in a VR headset
There are numerous options for virtual reality hardware, the specific usage will determine the best VR headsets for in the classroom. Here are six important considerations before the best option can be determined:
Let’s face it, all schools are working on a tight budget. This means the price will be a determining factor in the choice of the best VR headset. There are expensive options that require a fast PC to run, there are also cheaper options that are more geared towards 360 video content. The Oculus Quest is an affordable middle ground option that is affordable yet versatile. If your planning education in VR for a larger group of participants concurrently, the Oculus GO will offer the most bang for your buck.
The more expensive options are usually larger in dimensions. Apart from the physical size, you will also have to consider the playing area. Headsets like the aforementioned GO and the Pico G2 only support rotation but lack movement detection. Therefore very little space is required. Headsets like the Rift S, HTC Vive and the Quest require a large playing area. If a larger number of headsets is used there need to be enough storage facilities to store the devices while not in use.
You can’t just take a VR headset outside, they’re designed to use indoors. That said, battery operated standalone devices can be used in almost any space. Thanks to several generations of virtual reality goggles and adventurous early adaptors there are now various safeguards in place to prevent walking into walls. The Vive uses a warning system, the Quest has a similar see-through feature that requires no external tracking devices. The GO and G2 are mostly used for sit-down experiences like 360 video, although they both are wireless devices.
PC headsets are only limited to the harddrive inside the host computer. Standalone devices have to rely on internal storage. The Pico G2 supports external memory cards, the similar Oculus GO does not. If streaming video is used there’s no need for a large storage capacity. So in this case the actual use case will determine the best option.
In terms of graphical fidelity the bottleneck is either the screen used in the headset or the graphical processor unit (GPU). Mobile systems utilize GPU’s that can be compared to smartphones, while PC headsets offer more advanced graphics. However, for 360 video even the basic Oculus GO kiosk mode for VR apps can easily display 4K resolution video. For complex simulations in medical schools for example the classroom VR system will require a PC to run properly.
In the end you can purchase the most expensive and fully featured option, but it’s worthless if there’s not a teacher in the building who can actually operate the device. Only the standalone VR headsets offer a plug & play installation. The GO in particular offers an enormous amount of educational titles in the App Store. For more advanced features such as painting in three dimensions you could consider the Oculus Quest.
There is not one device that is the best VR headset for classroom VR. If your intention is to show multiple students 360 video, the Oculus GO provides an affordable, reliable and scalable option. For PC based VR the Rift S or Vive Pro are both solid options, although the Oculus Quest offers a wireless connection to PC which makes it a versatile choice. Before investing in hardware, first contact a specialized dealer who can determine the best solution for your specific requirements.
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