In my first article in this series, VR in Education: The Content Landscape, I posed the notion that content will in large part determine whether VR in education is headed towards dayspring or dusklight. In the second installment, I identified six structural impediments that will undoubtedly slow the much hoped-for coronation of VR in education. As I lead now with the third and final part of this series, I must admit that, minus some killer app or ecosystem breakthrough, the future of VR in K-16 education remains, for now, tepid.
My concern for the true reckoning for VR in the education market lies with ongoing customer mindshare. As I scour online educational resources and listen to other educators, the perceptions I gather are not encouraging. First, VR is experiencing scant discussion on online education forums. Scant. Second, I am not hearing great or compelling stories about VR in education, an important part of any technology’s growth trajectory. Most stories I’ve been hearing are uninspiring—been there, done that. So the ‘buzz’ around VR is rapidly declining, as is general excitement in the literature and at virtual and face-to-face conferences.
It seems that educational customer attention is instead focused on VR’s competition, tech that is simply sexier, for now: ChatGPT, all things AI, and Apple’s beckoning foray into augmented reality. Brighter, shinier objects, if you will. Clearly, this teasing distracts very well, given the mercurial nature of educators. And so diminishes the excitement of educators over virtual reality.
Mainly though, the real kill shot on VR in education, is that this new technology is rapidly becoming a supplemental, not core resource for schools. Let me explain. When the use of a novel technology appears merely nominal, offering less instructional firepower, that same technology is then pulled towards one-off placement in the classroom. That technology then succumbs to a very familiar curse in the inscrutable education market:the curse of being optional. And if you think hard about it, that’s a requisite aspiration of any sensible display manufacturer: to escape the slow-drip death grip of optionality in the classroom.
Without the killer app, the supportive ecosystems, more appealing use cases, and greater mindshare, it all comes down to the notion that the trajectory for VR, at least for now, shifts downwards to the chthonic, and no longer upwards to the supernal.