The Fluid Classroom

Multiplayer apps like AltSpace show new ways to connect and physically interact with people around the globe. | Image courtesy AltspaceVR

It is possible that throughout this entire article you’ve been thinking about these immersive educational experiences as solitary — this could not be further from the truth. Immersive Education is only a single-user experience if educators decide to make it so. The aforementioned convergence of big-data and immersive education can be combined to give the classroom new ever-changing forms.

Multi-user educational experiences can be built in such a way that they connect students from vastly different locations in the globe, seamlessly pairing individuals with similar levels of experience, interest and sometimes even completely opposite skillsets to encourage collaboration around a particular problem. When you start looking at the classroom not as a physical room, but as an abstract place where collaborative learning exists, it can take any form at any given point time — and it won’t be lacking in human connections either. Remember that immersive technology will evolve until the point that the digital connections you see will be completely indistinguishable from the real world.

The key is to imagine the classroom not as a physical place, but as an abstract location where collaborative learning exists that can take on any form.

This is important for a variety of reasons — we don’t want education to be isolationist and we want students to be exposed to a variety of contexts and cultures — but this could also become a huge cost-saving measure. Schools are expensive to upkeep and take a lot of physical space. As the digital revolution reaches new heights, it is possible that all the costs we face today associated with real estate, human labor and logistics slowly shift into the digital realm, where everything is cheap, all materials cost the same, knowledge is abundant and all students can be universally and continuously connected in improved educational systems, saving hundreds of billions of dollars.

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In the digital realm, gold, diamond, coal, wood and rubidium all cost the exact same thing — zero. | Image courtesy Marmoset

The classroom doesn’t even have to be tethered to any single digital experience — it can blend in seamlessly into our world, constantly present around you in unpredictable ways. Are you walking down the streets surrounding Bastille in Paris? Why not take a break and start a lesson about the Storming of Bastille on the spot as it transforms your environment, getting you 15 minutes off your year-long History quota?

These new ways to learn may sound fantastical, but are all achievable through smart integration of technology, design and imagination. The one certainty about the future ahead is that it’ll rock the present to its very core — and given the way that immersive technologies and artificial intelligence are going, it seems like we will have the opportunity to turn education into anything we can think of.

So given the option — what would you turn it into?

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If this article resonated with you and you’re a technologist, designer, educator, artist or content creator interested in tackling these challenges, please contact me. Let’s do it together!

More from the ‘How VR, AR, & AI Can Change Education Forever’ Series:

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Honestly, this article didn’t excite me.

    First of all, you’re underestimating the problems of costs. Doing a 3D application is super-expensive. If you want to immerse your students in an ancient battle, this requires an enormous amounts of 3D models and animations and this is damn expensive. Schools have always too little money and this is a big issue.

    Then, the idea of my teacher having a psychological profile of myself scares me a lot. There’s a big privacy issue.

    What I liked instead of the whole article has been the dream of an AI teacher: this is a smart thought I honestly never had. This can really be important for education… even if this would mean that all teachers will lose their jobs.

    • Lucas Rizzotto

      Thanks for the comment, Tony! I’m sure that the cost of 3D application development will plummet in the years ahead. This is being pushed by all major tech companies right now (and making 3D creation tools easily accessible is in their deep interests) as well as game engines, so I don’t think it’s that much of an issue in the future. Additionally, lack of resources also spurs innovation – I’m sure we’ll see new creative ways of teaching all types of content in the years to come without the need for photorealistic AAA productions.

      The analytics portion is supposed to be slightly worrying and there needs to be a discussion about how that data is used, although in my opinion there’s no way tech companies and developers will let that data go, so it’s a matter of how more than if. Regardless, it’s important to highlight the value that the data can potentially have for creating dynamic and personalized educational experiences.

      Glad you liked the bit about A.I. teachers! (:

    • PS Vita Roundup

      If you want 3D battles, you license the Total War series, a PC game that has been used for historical reenactments on TV shows for years. Patch in a VR mode and multiple perspectives, which I’m sure the developers Creative Assembly would do quite cheaply for the extra exposure and educational sales… and there you go. There’s little need to start from scratch with most of these ideas.

  • I love this, and have had many similar thoughts! Very exciting. Also totally fascinated by the pupilometry concept and how it could enhance student profiles and guided learning. Galvanic skin response might also be helpful, but I can totally see pupil size being great. It would have to be calibrated based on the amount of light delivered to the eyes (which also impacts eye dilation) but luckily that is easily captured in a VR headset. I have seen eye trackers out there for headsets, but haven’t seen any which say they track pupil size specifically.. I’d be curious if they are missing out on tracking this!

  • Augmented reality can be used in the study of any subjects – from history to physics. This year, a “virtual teacher” was patented: students listen to a lecture, perform assignments, everything as usual, and the teacher is physically located elsewhere. Moreover, he can interact with students in real time, give them assignments, navigate the class. From these examples it is clear that what still seemed fiction today is already widely used, it concerns the role of augmented reality in education ( ). You can easily find out what kind of constellation you see, or solve several examples with a funny dog. And similar applications are released more and more – if only the children at least somehow motivate to study.