VR in schools can be more than novelty
The founder and MD of a cutting-edge software firm says VR could be used once a week to reinvigorate young people’s ability to navigate complex information.
Chris Jeffries made the prediction while speaking to BusinessCloud about the firm’s latest project.
Established in 2014, the Tamworth-based software development firm is described by Jeffries as a company which hopes to be ‘clever’ in the application of technology.
Its latest project has been in development for four years and is a combination of careers development platform Launchpad and accompanying virtual character VICTAR (virtual interactive careers training & apprenticeship robot), which is designed to guide young people into a worthwhile career.
Making use of VR, and an alternative to the printed prospectus, the tech is designed to put its young users into an operating system of sorts, with information on the different education and career paths available.
It is hoped the experience will reinvigorate careers advice and better inspire young people to consider their future.
“When a young person comes into their careers advice, they put their headset on, and they're immersed and taken out of the environment by bringing them into a virtual world, where they can really explore and get sight of the possibilities that that future could lead to," said Jeffries.
“One of the things I'm really passionate about is what jobs will exist in the future. A huge percentage of students will go on to do jobs that don't even exist today, and you need a mechanism to be able to prepare and train them for that.”
He hopes the new platform will do just that, and will be the first of an increasing number of platforms which can go take VR beyond entertainment and into immersive education.
“What we identified is virtual reality is a great mechanism and a great technology to actually influence learning environment,” he said.
“With the huge influx of mobile VR, whether that be through things like Lenovo Mirage headset, or things like Oculus Go, the price point for schools to invest in virtual reality equipment has come down hugely.
“I think within the next five years, we'll start to see a bigger a bigger uptake in curriculum learning through virtual reality, particularly things like STEM subjects.”
While schools are eager to invest now in the technology, Jeffries said that investment in VR for the classroom will be as much of an investment in the future.
“VICTAR is a pivotal application in the adoption of VR, because for a relatively low investment, and using low investment equipment, which can be scaled for future, you can build the VR classroom of future.
The VICTAR character
Jeffries said as VICTAR is an interactive operating system, young people can proactively learn from it, as opposed to just experiencing virtual surroundings.
This also means that the operating system can be tweaked, and new information added, to lengthen the lifespan of the experience.
This use case is one Jeffries thinks could become the new norm.
“I think over the next few years, VR is something that schoolchildren would probably use once a week,” he said.
Currently, VICTAR has been developed specifically for 12-15-year-olds, but the firm is now looking to diversify its personality so they can introduce children from a younger age, and have the character mature with them.
“This means you’ll be able to stay with VICTAR when you move into higher education or apprenticeships, to keep you on your career goals."
The firm is collaborating with tech giant Lenovo’s education arm Lenovo Education and World Skills, the government-funded programme for apprenticeships and technical skills.
Jeffries said he hopes in the coming years the project’s existing and future partners and work with educational institutions will be adopted both nationally and internationally to help more children imagine their future.
“We've had lots of schools using it, lots of students from colleges, employers - and the feedback's been incredible from them.
“We're looking to really make a big impact in the marketplace and secure a good chunk of it, to get the technology in schools over the next two years.”