The group of experienced faculty members—including professors from various departments—aimed to reveal how VR could improve on current teaching practices, in what situations it could be used, and how students could benefit from the experience.
Members of the taskforce had a clear objective: “Making sure that whatever we are doing, we’re doing it because the learning experience is going to be enhanced,” says Begoña González-Cuesta, dean of education and academic experience at IE Business School.
BusinessBecause spoke with Begoña to uncover what IE has learned about VR, and how it can be used to shape education.
Virtual reality can help you learn new skills
The IE taskforce has worked to bring its findings into practice, integrating VR into the curriculum in areas where students can benefit.
One such area is in the development of skills. An immersive experience, VR allows you to enter certain practical scenarios where you can put your skills to the test.
This is particularly useful in the development of soft skills such as communication and interpersonal interaction. Key scenarios where IE has used VR to develop these skills include public speaking sessions, job interview simulators, and negotiations.
“This is the winner in terms of the amount of courses and experiences that we are providing for students,” Begoña explains. “Mainly so far it’s been around behavioral skills.”
Where more traditional teaching methods would see students practicing public speaking at a number of fixed points throughout the year, with VR they can practice without an audience or professors present. This flexibility means you can practice your skills again and again until you feel comfortable.
“In order to learn skills you need to practice them,” says Begoña. “With a theoretical framework you can learn about some tips and tricks but at the end of the day you gain a skill by practicing.”
Virtual reality can improve the depth of your understanding
There are several methods professors use to convey information in-class today. Whether it's a simple video, an interactive game, or a more practical experience, these techniques are used to enhance your level of understanding around a certain topic or issue.
With VR, you can take this one step further, says Begoña. In many cases, immersive visual storytelling can provide a more complete understanding of a certain subject.
For example, VR has allowed IE students to experience the impact of the climate crisis first-hand by showing what it’s like to live through a hurricane. It’s also helped students understand the lived experience of others by allowing them a glimpse into the life of people of other identities.
When using VR in this way, IE incorporates follow-up workshops and projects requiring students to formulate solutions based on their new understanding of the issue at hand.
“The end goal is making them think, and trying to get some insights about a problem and the potential solutions,” Begoña explains.
Virtual reality allows for greater flexibility
Growth in Edtech innovations since the Covid pandemic began have made education more flexible than ever before. With VR it’s no different. It allows for greater flexibility both for students and the schools who use it.
This is primarily because of the level of immersion VR provides. While video conferencing platforms such as Zoom ensure students can all distance learn at the same time, VR enhances this experience to become as seamless as possible.
“By doing this [with VR], students are having a very close experience to what it would be like to actually be somewhere. So it’s adding something that I think is valuable,” says Begoña.
The possibility of having a truly immersive experience without being there in-person increases the flexibility for schools in terms of what they can offer to students.
Where once you may have had to travel to a certain location to fully understand a particular case study, VR ensures you can do that in-class. This doesn’t necessarily mean replacing in-person experiences altogether, moreover it allows for a greater number of practical sessions.
At IE, the potential impact this can have on the student experience is only beginning to be realized, Begoña says.
“[In future] it’s going to be a lot about providing learners with that possibility to experience things that could be super costly and difficult to provide if you had to move them or put them in the shoes of someone else.”
The future of VR in the classroom
The variety of benefits and use cases that Begoña and her fellow taskforce members have uncovered ensure that IE has plans to integrate VR further into the curricula of its programs.
Today, professors are receiving support on which materials to use and training on how best to incorporate virtual experiences into their programs. Begoña maintains that the school is only at the beginning of its journey.
“My feeling is that more and more of these types of materials are going to take a central role in the type of things professors provide for students to learn.
“I think this is going to grow a lot, we still don’t have a clear idea about all of the fields where we can do more.”