Asg 8, 01 / Jun 25, 17 20:35 UTC
How Virtual reality will impact distance learning



This is a brief report that I have put together to begin to explore the impact that Virtual Reality could have for Asgardia. It is by no means the height of academia, but effort has been made to try and justify the sources and experiences revealed by this very early work.

Virtual Reality for Asgardia is the basis of my Strategist campaign, so please take some time out to visit my page and if you agree with my vision, lend me your support.


The purpose of the report is to identify what impact virtual and augmented reality will have on Education with an emphasis on distance learning.


In 2016 Rory Cellan-Jones, Technology correspondent for the BBC echoed the sentiment of many people whose finger is on the pulse of technology when he wrote his article ‘2016: the year when VR goes from virtual to reality’ (Cellan-Jones 2016) . The growth of Virtual Reality and the range of applications for virtual reality is nothing short of amazing.

In his online article, a video showcases 18 year old Helena using a virtual reality simulation to overcome her phobia of elevators and this serves as a great example of how we can use virtual reality to program our brains.


To investigate and provide examples of how Virtual / Augmented Reality will improve distance learning.


· To research and investigate a wide range of source material and gather evidence and understanding of the impact of VR and AR on Distance Learning.

· To experience VR / AR learning first hand.

· Use appropriate sources (journals, articles, blogs etc.) to research the application and development of VR for learning.

· Use appropriate sources to identify weaknesses in distance learning that could be improved by VR / AR

· Using appropriate sources, draw conclusions on how VR / AR will impact and improve distance learning.

Distance Learning Versus Traditional Learning.

Differences between online and distance learning

There are a few differences between the traditional learning environment and the ‘distance’ or ‘online’ learning model. A lot of those differences tend to boil down to the things one might expect such as the lack of physical equipment such as textbooks, the lack of social interactions and ‘team-based’ activities and the lack of training facilities.

The following table compares some of the characteristics of distance learning with traditional learning.

Distance Learning

Traditional Learning

More affordable, costing up to 80x less than traditional degrees.

Social and ‘university’ experiences such as sports and parties.

Convenience and flexibility allowing people to learn in their own time.

Support from the teaching staff and various other support persons

Open schedule, Virtual classes can be completed anywhere and provide more freedom.

Facilities necessary for study such as science, dentistry and medicine.

Great place for learning digital skills

Degrees from traditional schools are more sought after

(Anon. 2016)

It is widely reported that many people need interpersonal interaction for effective learning and the absence of it can negatively affect a person’s learning and retention. (May 2011) It is mentioned in several sources that the ‘social elements’ of university or the ‘university experience’ is one of the main highlights of a ‘traditional’ education versus a distance learning approach. (Anon. 2016; May 2011; bird 2014)

Such sources seem to highlight some of the gaps that might exist when the two forms of learning are compared.

Adoption of new technologies.

Online learning establishments are often early adopters of online technologies that help them to create a more tangible learning experience. Understandably, the better the technology on offer the better the learning experience will be. This is keenly demonstrated by the Open University whom have showed several times a keen forward-thinking approach to new technology. (Various 2010; Middleditch 2016)

Virtual Reality Learning Innovations

Realistic Simulations

The field of virtual reality has come a long way since its inception and one of the areas that it’s blooming is in the field of education. Virtual reality is allowing people to train in hyper realistic simulations that have the power to enable people to visualise things in a virtual reality with a low barrier of entry. Certain technologies can run smoothly on modern smartphones and don’t even require cutting-edge technology. ( Odcaf VR - Hyperrealistic VR Simulations 2017)

Virtual Training

Virtual reality is being used to help in a wide range of training, notably within the medical field. Cancer surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, Shafi Ahmed performed the first 360 o video operation that was streamed live allowing medical students and trainee surgeons to view the procedure in real time.

It was reported by the guardian that Ahmed believes that “the approach could make healthcare more equitable, improving the training of surgeons worldwide.” Technology is getting increasingly more powerful and the costs of attending a virtual operation pale in comparison to students travelling abroad to train. (Davis 2016)

In the article, Davis writes that George Hannah, professor of surgical sciences at Imperial College, London was “curiously optimistic.” About the benefits of the approach saying “if this technology allows the transfer of knowledge and skills [over] a wider range and in an easier way that would be very beneficial.”

Some studies show that Virtual Reality training shows an improvement when compared with those who did not benefit from virtual reality training. One study compared surgeons who trained with Virtual Reality with those that did not.

The results of the study showed that Gallbladder dissection was 29% faster for VR-trained residents while non-vr-trained residents were nine times more likely to transiently fail to make progress and five more times likely to injure the gallbladder or burn nontarget tissue. (Seymour et al. 2002)

The report concludes that “the use of VR surgical simulation to reach specific target criteria significantly improves OR performance of residents.” And implies that it is validation of the transfer of skills from the Virtual Environment to the operating room. This validation shows that more sophisticated uses of VR can assist in training, to reduce errors and certify surgeons. (Seymour et al. 2002)

Social Elements

(Source: )

The above picture demonstrates a virtual gathering of some 90-100 people who are all equipped with Virtual Reality headsets. While an early technical test, it shows the potential for an online university to offer a high fidelity social learning experience. (James 2017)

While not a piece of educational software new game from Ubisoft, Star Trek Bridge Crew represents a very interesting example of a ‘shared social VR experience’.

The premise of the game is that up to four people must work together to complete missions.

Not only does this demonstrate another ‘social’ environment, but it shows how people can co-operate and collaborate to achieve success in the game.

Looking at the game, it’s not hard to see how these applications can cross over to other ‘group’-based training experiences such as working as a crew-member on a real ship or flying an airplane or operating a tank.

This game was specifically developed to serve as a ‘Social’ Virtual reality experience.

Throughout this report, it has been demonstrated that Virtual reality is quickly filling up the gaps between ‘distance learning’ and ‘traditional learning’. The fact that many of the elements considered unique to traditional learning can be emulated in virtual space for a fraction of the cost show that Virtual Reality will have a profound impact on the way that distance learning operates.

Distance learning which was cited as having ‘lacking facilities’ can run virtual labs, and create complete virtual environments for training in a wide range of disciplines, including medicine, dentistry and other professions that require specialist equipment.

But beyond that, it’s also possible to run advanced simulations for pilots, train conductors and architects and all at a fraction of the risk and the cost of traditional education.

Distance Learning was also cited as having a poor ‘social experience’ and that a concern that social learning was important for information retention, yet as James reported on, it’s possible to create immersive high fidelity virtual environments and share in meaningful virtual social engagements. The technology shows that a ‘social learning’ environment is possible with virtual avatars all working together.

As demonstrated by the Open University’s uptake of technology both in second-life and with their grant from google to investigate the application of Virtual Reality in education, it’s possible that in the future distance learning will be able to offer a vast menu of learning options and that traditional ‘physical’ universities won’t be able to compete with the scope of virtual reality.

Having a ‘virtual’ learning environment means that there are no limits to what you can offer. There are no limits to the size of your campus, no limit to the number of students that you can host. No limit to the number of countries that you accept students from.

This report set out to investigate and demonstrate ways in which virtual reality will impact education with a focus on the Distance Learning (online learning) environment.

Through a range of deliverables and sources it has clearly shown that virtual reality has the potential to impact the distance learning space, provide social experiences, affordably provide virtual ‘facilities’, improve the training of individuals and potentially disrupt the higher-education business model.

BIRD, K., 2014. Online vs. Traditional Education: The Answer You Never Expected. Rasmussen Colleage , Feb 24,

CELLAN-JONES, R., 2016. 2016: the year when VR goes from virtual to reality. BBC News , -01-01T01:24:16+00:00

DAVIS, N., 2016. Cutting-edge theatre: world’s first virtual reality operation goes live. The Guardian , -04-14

JAMES, W., 2017. High Fidelity Targets 100 Avatars Close Together in Lag-Free Social VR [viewed Apr 29, 2017]. Available from:

MAY, R., 2011. Traditional vs. Online Universities - What's the Difference? [viewed Apr 19, 2017]. Available from:

MIDDLEDITCH, K., 2016. Teaching in Virtual Reality [viewed 23/03/ 2017]. Available from:

Online vs Traditional Education Infographic 2016. Available from:

Odcaf VR - Hyperrealistic VR Simulations, 2017 Directed by Overdose Caffeine.

SEYMOUR, N.E. et al., 2002. Virtual reality training improves operating room performance: results of a randomized, double-blinded study. Annals of surgery, 236(4), 458-464

VARIOUS, 2010. The OU in Second Life [viewed 25/03/ 2017].


Throughout the production of this report, many skills were used and improved upon. Specifically, there was a dramatic increase in knowledge of research. The continued acquisition of research material from a wide range of resources has ensured that a broader understanding of research skills has been obtained. In addition, there has been a key focus throughout the production of the report on time-management skills and pinpointing the most important elements of the project that need to be completed. Planning the report before-hand has given lent development to the general report-writing skill in terms of structure to the document.

An area for improvement for this report would have been to focus more on the drawbacks of Virtual Reality technology such as the current cost of the hardware, the lack of dedicated learning applications and the slow commercial uptake of the technology. However, diversifying the report too much would have been impossible with the allowed word limit.

Risk Analysis




Time management

Work might not be submitted on time

Making a plan, updating it as the goals move

Hardware failure

Loss of work, preventing deliverables

Multiple backups, cloud, flash-drive

Unforeseen Circumstances

Illness, sickness, global war might prevent deliverables

Have contingency plan, work to a pass grade as quickly as possible and then build upon it to ensure submission is possible.

Rival students might copy work

Security breaches might mean a risk of collusion accusations.

Keep work secure, don’t let anyone look at it, review Solent university policy.

Connection issues

If connection is missing, it won’t be possible to submit the work online.

Submit the work before the absolute deadline. Prepare to use an alternative connection if necessary.

Gantt Chart

Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

Week 8

Week 9

Week 10







· Planning – Production of mind map, risk analysis and ‘template’ with headings.

· Research – Looking through the various sources for material relating to my topic.

· Production – Gathering all the sources and writing the report.

· Review – Going through the report, fleshing out and sharpening.

· Reflect – Considering what was done during the report production and writing a reflection.

· Submit – Submitting the report in its entirety.

Primary Source

For the report, it was important that there was a base understanding of the Virtual Reality learning environment and so some basic research was undertaken by the author. To this end, a virtual reality headset was purchased for a smartphone device.

The device used was the infinity VR headset (pictured) which can be used with almost any smartphone device. For this research a oneplus one was used.

Throughout the research period (weeks 2-4) the headset was used to experience a wide range of ‘enlightening’ subject matter that included:

· News Articles

· Documentaries

· Exploration

· Educational Programs

It was interesting to delve into various virtual worlds for the project. There is a sense of depth, engagement and immersion that you don’t typically find just watching videos on youtube and somewhat mundane subject matter can seem quite interesting when you can look around your surroundings and take in the environment and information.

In addition, the device was given to Mia, age 6, to learn about Dinosaurs. And while anecdotal, it was often remarked how wonderful of an experience it was. Perhaps, Virtual Reality coupled with the imagination of a young person can lend to an even more immersive learning experience.

Asg 9, 01 / Jun 26, 17 04:16 UTC

This is an EXCELLENT report. You make a sound argument and back it up with established research.

Asg 9, 01 / Jun 26, 17 08:38 UTC

Thank you for taking the time out to read and comment on my research, Toby. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Asg 23, 01 / Jul 10, 17 15:32 UTC

Could you please repost or link to this is the forum please. This would be a fantastic discussion have.

Jul 19, 01 / Aug 3, 17 15:31 UTC

This will indeed help many Asgardians, and i love Star Trek to death, Your hard work will pay off.

Jul 19, 01 / Aug 3, 17 23:53 UTC

A definite way forward, Congratulations Ross, excellent report.

Jul 24, 01 / Aug 8, 17 07:55 UTC

This is of particular interest to me as an open university student. The lack of social interaction is a good thing for me. I struggle with crowds. It would be a good thing, though, if virtual environments were made convenient enough to provide casual meet up and discussion areas. ...