EAST Quarterly: So let me start off by
simply asking what you are seeing as far as deployment of VR in education generally?
Shauna Heller is the founder and president of Clay Park VR, a firm based in Palo Alto, California, that offers developers, organizations and institutions counsel and executive direction on how to make and deploy meaningful virtual reality (VR) content and applications. She has worked in creative technologies since 2009 and worked formerly as a developer relations specialist for Oculus. We recently had a chance to speak with her about the state of VR in education, where it might go and how EAST students might use it. The following conversation has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
EAST QUARTERLY | www.EASTinitiative.org
Shauna Heller: It’s actually come and gone multiple times over a few decades, but in its current iteration, where you have a commercially available, low-price, consumer-grade headset, it’s really early days for VR in the classroom and VR in education. Some of the early trends I’ve seen include small pilot programs with independent for-profit and nonprofit developers and organizations just trying put these headsets in classrooms to see how the students enjoy using them and what content they’re responding to. Right now it’s a couple of developers on a couple different continents putting together mostly 360-degree video content and creating light learning experiences out of those. It’s not meant to be highly instructional.
How do you see that changing and evolving? What would be your pie-in-the-sky version of the future of VR in the classroom?
SH: Teachers are beginning to interact a little bit with current VR hardware and software. I’d be very interested in creating pilot programs that parallel textbook curriculum that is already in use, meaning can we create some very specific VR curriculum that would have the exact same content as textbook learning but presented in a different medium. Then we test the students in longitudinal, A-B studies to measure whether they are learning more quickly, more deeply and in a more engaged fashion when using VR instead of a traditional textbook only. That’s the next 12 to 24 months, but really, looking out, it could be 5 years. It’s a marathon and not a race. It’s not just going to be overnight that we have headsets in every classroom or labs in every school. It’s going to take some time. The hardware could stand some refining, and already it’s undergoing a number of iterations in very rapid succession, both the mobile side and the PC side.
Based on what you’ve seen and heard about EAST and how its programs are starting to incorporate VR, how does that fit into what you’ve described?