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Virtual Reality in Online Education (First in a Three-Part Series)

By Manuel Feldmann, M.A. (with assistance from the Illinois Community Ambassador Team).

When the world community went into near lockdown due to the emergence of the global COVID-19 pandemic, academics increasingly turned to elearning resources to continue to provide instruction to its learners sheltering at home.  In a global community already familiar with Massive Online Open Courses or MOOCs, adaptive technologies to help the disabled acquire the needed acumen to survive in the current educational environment, Virtual Reality, or VR has been adopted by members of the international academic community to make it possible for every learner to succeed.  As with all innovations, many at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Online are curious to know what learner reaction to VR is, and whether it may be soon adopted as a best practice.  Will it give learners a greater ease of access to the material? Improved concept acquisition?  More lasting memory retention? 

We will begin with the First Blog article in a Three Part Series on Virtual Reality in Online Education by exploring three potential benefits members of the academic community may feel VR gives to learners.  Do Learners like the All-Encompassing Academic Environment?  Does VR promote more opportunities for peer-to-peer and shared learning?  Will VR be part of a movement to replace brick and mortar educational technologies?  Manuel Feldmann will summarize his findings in the first part of  our series, “Virtual Reality in Online Education.” 

Virtual Reality in Online Learning:  An All-Encompassing Online Academic Environment

A major advantage of the courses is immersion, i.e. the feeling of really being there. Some Social VR platforms already offer the option of using individual lecture halls for their own event or even designing it themselves. Tools like in real life are available. For example laser pointers, monitors, a screen (where, for example, YouTube films can be shown), lectern, round tables or microphones, seats for the students and functions such as hand signals if you want to say something. The already well designed VR environments increase the feeling of sitting in a real auditorium.

Foto by manuel feldmann

Credit: Manuel Feldmann

Virtual Reality in Online Learning: Promotes Peer-to-Peer and Shared Learning

Nobody would contradict the thesis, that it is important for your own learning success to exchange ideas with like-minded people or fellow students and to get in contact, for example to form learning groups. .

The author himself has experienced that the first contact in the virtual lecture hall is associated with much fewer barriers than in real life. So it is not uncommon to get in touch with other participants relatively quickly in the virtual lecture hall or at the virtual campfire after the lecture. In fact, it is often the case that participants start looking for a conversation. Since you are usually visible to others as an avatar, your own inhibition threshold seems to be reduced.

Virtual Reality in Online Education: Will Brick and Mortal Educational Settings Become Obsolete? 

Of course, the article should not tempt you to just stay at home in the future and no longer go out on the street. Nevertheless, an economic advantage is also associated with Virtual Reality, especially for educational institutions, but also for students and course participants.

 Imagine, for example, that a university primarily offers VR events. Not only the university saves the high costs of the buildings, but also the students could only log on to the desired university from home. they would no longer have to search for expensive apartments on site and could possibly even work full-time in parallel. Of course, pure online courses via video stream already offer such advantages. However, anyone who has already attended a course in VR knows how immersive the whole thing can be, which increases the learning experience.


There are certainly many more reasons why VR can be a suitable tool for educational institutions and students. For example as an integral part of offline events. However, this should be considered in a further text. The fact that VR will completely replace real learning on site in the future is still a utopia. Nevertheless, from the author’s perspective and due to the advantages mentioned, it could be a suitable addition.

We hope to continue with Part Two of our Three Part Series on Virtual Reality in Online Education in the future.

About the author

Manuel is a Political Scientist, PR Consultant FJS and Ambassador/Mentor for Digital Marketing Specialization from the University of Illinois at UC. He is also assistant of a german party chairman. 


Thank you to professor Vishal Sachdev