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Accessibility, Professional Development Key to VR Adoption in Schools

In order to get the most out of virtual reality tools, schools and universities need to train educators how to use them and address accessibility concerns that may come with adopting related programs.

The Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset on a white background
The Oculus Quest 2 virtual reality headset.
Shutterstock/Boumen Japet
As AR/VR technology continues to improve for classroom applications, educators are showing more interest in using it. But to make mass adoption a reality, schools and universities need to make sure the tools are accessible and that teachers are trained on how to use them.

During a Thursday webinar hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), Kai Frazier, founder and CEO of the AR/VR ed-tech platform Kai XR, said adopting AR/VR tools will require professional development efforts to help instructors and students get used to the emerging technology and see how it fits into their curriculum. She said that luckily, AR/VR tools have a lot of promise when it comes to increasing student engagement — a major concern in both K-12 and higher education amid the recent rise of online learning.

“It may be a collaborative classroom [experience] where the teachers and the students are learning together, and that is very different than traditional teaching,” she said. “For me, it starts with having conversations about digital classroom management, being 21st-century educators. … Once we talk about all of that, we can go into the technology more.”

Muhsinah Morris, an academic program director and assistant professor of chemistry at Morehouse College, agreed with Frazier about the need for professional development to get AR/VR adoption off the ground at schools and universities. She said professional development is an ongoing process at institutions like Morehouse College, which joined several other universities last year in partnering with VictoryXR and Meta to establish “digital twin” campuses where students can participate in VR courses using tools such as Meta Quest 2 headsets.
From top left, ITIF moderator Juan Londono discusses AR/VR ed-tech adoption in a webinar Thursday with Muhsinah Morris of Morehouse College and Kai Frazier of Kai XR.
Screenshot by Brandon Paykamian
“You have to train the teachers. … There are so many different layers to it, but professional development is definitely key,” Morris said, noting that the use of AR/VR tools has helped increase engagement and student performance in courses that have used the technology thus far.

Another major concern to take into account, according to Morris and Frazier, is considering whether certain AR/VR tools are accessible to students in terms of cost and how they function, adding that the adoption of AR/VR tools could potentially widen the existing digital divide among students. Morris added that many AR/VR tools are not as accessible as they should be for students with disabilities, which can be another barrier to adoption and efforts to experiment more with AR/VR tools in education.

“There’s not really a whole lot of information about how we can implement this for a student who has [impaired] vision or a student that is hard of hearing, or students that have physical impairments and maybe cannot use the controls, or they don’t have hands that can be tracked,” she said.

According to Frazier and Morris, funding is another major barrier for institutions with limited resources. For schools and universities that are unable to purchase headsets but want to provide more immersive content for course lessons, Frazier said there are other options for AR programs that do not require as much expensive hardware.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, we don’t have headsets, we aren’t a good candidate for metaverse technologies,’ and that’s not true,” she said. “You may have to start with [less] immersive technology to get the kids acclimated with it, and sometimes it’s a bit of a learning curve. Sometimes maybe the headsets aren’t the first thing you want to go to.”
Brandon Paykamian is a staff writer for Government Technology. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism from East Tennessee State University and years of experience as a multimedia reporter, mainly focusing on public education and higher ed.