Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom: Best Practices & Tips

Using Virtual Reality in the Classroom: Best Practices & Tips

Virtual Reality (VR) headsets have been making their way into education for over a decade. Despite preconceptions held by some, VR technology isn’t just for fun and games. It has proven to be a useful tool in many educators’ arsenals for enhancing learning and engagement. As schools increasingly integrate this immersive technology into their classrooms, it’s essential to understand how to effectively utilize VR headsets to maximize their educational potential. Whether you’re tech-savvy or quite the opposite, we hope this article full of best practices and tips will help you navigate the challenges and opportunities that arise while adding virtual reality into your curriculum. 

 

Set up & Troubleshooting 

Setting up new technology can be intimidating, but headset manufacturers have tried their best to make the process intuitive. Most headsets walk you through trying multiple features before you can use the headset fully.  If you’re struggling with setup or something after, refer to the manufacturer’s online resources and support. Manufacturers’ video walkthroughs are especially helpful for those that are unfamiliar with the technology. 

 

HTC VIVE Support 

Meta Quest Support 

Pico Support 

Valve Index (Steam) Support 

DPVR Support 

 

Setting up a single headset can take a few minutes, so if you have a batch of new headsets, you may want to enlist some help from your peers to make the work fly by. As they say, many hands make light work! 

 

Explore Content Options 

There is an enormous amount of virtual reality content available, both fun and educational. Take some time to explore free and paid apps and content that could be useful in various classrooms and programs at your school.  For example, the free Google Earth VR app allows you to explore all that the globe has to offer through virtual reality. Another free app, Youtube VR, features a growing library of free 360-degree videos of museum tours, planets, orchestra performances, and more. There are also various free museum experiences like Anne Frank House VR that allow you to bring the art, history, and science exhibits from across the world directly to you and your students. Give your headset’s app store a search, there may be a video, experience, or app that’s perfect for an upcoming unit! 

 

VR Headset Boundaries 

VR headsets have a safety feature called a boundary. The boundary acts as your “safe area” while using virtual reality where your view of the real space you are inhabiting may become obscured. The size of your boundary may vary based on your headset model and settings, but they’re typically a space of a few square feet. 6 feet by 6 feet, or 2 meters by 2 meters, is a good amount of space for a boundary. If you step near one of the boundary lines while using your headset, the edge of your boundary will come into view to keep you from running into any objects. 

 

Boundaries help keep everyone’s shins from unnecessary bruises, but when in a classroom where the headsets get taken on and off, headsets may inadvertently exit the boundary area. In some headset models when the headset leaves the boundary limits, the boundary must be set again. This can add additional hassle when trying to have a classroom’s worth of students taking them off and on. Our recommendation to help alleviate this issue is to opt for the setting where you can draw your own boundary line manually (if available with your model) and draw it to accommodate wherever the headset may be set down when taken off. This extra space can help reduce the amount of times the boundary needs to be reset.  Another tip to help alleviate this issue would be to set up cones, tape, or other visual indicators so students can see where the headset must remain once they remove it.  

 

If you are having trouble with your headset forgetting the established boundary, it may be due to a few reasons. Lighting changes or decor/furniture changes are sometimes the culprit behind lost boundaries. It’s best to prepare the area you intend to use your headsets in prior to setting them up for this reason. One other cause can be people moving in and around the boundary area, inadvertently causing the software to think that there’s new obstacles present.  

 

On occasion, your headset may forget its boundary after it’s taken off and goes into sleep mode. A trick to help alleviate this is to secure a small piece of film or tape over the proximity sensor on the inside of the headset. This is typically located centrally between the eye displays. As a bonus, this can help keep screencasting going even when students take the headset off and on in the classroom or at an event booth. Keep in mind that doing this can drain your battery quicker. 

 

Keeping Charged Up 

If you’re using headsets in back-to-back classes or at an event, you’ll want to keep the headsets’ battery life in mind. Keeping chargers nearby (even within your boundary line) is a good rule of thumb. If you have more than a few moments in between students using the headsets, plug them and their respective controllers in when you can. A few minutes of being plugged in can make a difference; the battery life will go down faster than you think! 

 

Some headset models allow users to swap main battery packs with ease. If you have a model with removable battery packs, we highly recommend purchasing additional packs to have on hand. They are an added expense, but the added convenience is worth it in our opinion. While most VR headsets feature remote controls that are charged via cord, in some cases they feature handheld remote controls that use traditional alkaline or lithium batteries rather than charging cords. As you can assume, if you have one of these models, you’ll want to have a pack of extra batteries at the ready when heavily using VR headsets.  

 

Utilizing Limited Number of VR Headsets in Classroom 

Depending on your school’s resources, you may not have enough VR headsets to equip an entire room of students for a class period. How do you keep the entire class engaged while they have to take turns with the immersive tech? Casting a headset’s view onto a display is one way. Students enjoy seeing what their peers are experiencing, getting excited for what they will be able to select themselves.  

 

If your display of choice doesn’t natively allow devices to cast to it, there are various casting devices on the market, most being less than $50. After being plugged in, simply find the device’s name in the casting menu on your VR headset to engage the connection. Now, anyone seeing the display can see what the VR headset user sees and discuss! Another idea is to tie in a complimentary activity or worksheet for learners to keep busy while waiting for their turn. 

 

Alternatively, using a solution that has content for both virtual reality and other devices is a perfect fit for groups with limited headsets. One example of a platform that that supports VR headsets, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and more is the immersive career exploration library, CareerViewXR. Featuring real professionals doing real work in real work environments, CareerViewXR brings industries like skilled trades, healthcare, technology, energy, manufacturing, and more into the classroom. While limited VR headsets are occupied, learners can use their personal or one-to-one devices to explore a library of web-based experiences that pair with companion VR videos, helping them decide which they’d like to try out when it’s their turn to jump into VR. No matter if you have one VR headset or many, there are definitely creative ways to engage an entire room! 

 

Cleaning & Care 

Frequent cleaning is integral with VR headsets that are being shared. Sweat, cosmetics, bacteria, and other debris can accumulate when being passed from person to person in no time, especially in an education setting. Thankfully, no special kits are needed to get them sparkling and disinfected- you probably have some of these already! 

 

Disinfecting cleaner or wipes 

Your standard disinfecting wipes like Lysol or Clorox that contain no bleach are ideal for cleaning the exterior of headset, controllers, and face cushions. Alternatively, diluted alcohol solutions containing 70-75% ethanol (ethyl alcohol) can be used on a cloth. Disinfecting solutions should not be sprayed directly onto your VR headset and must not touch sensitive components like the lenses, sensors, or eye trackers. After each disinfecting cleaner or wipe use, allow the headset to air dry.  

 

Microfiber Cloth & Non-Alcohol Glasses Wipes 

To show a little love to the more sensitive areas of a headset, microfiber cloths and non-alcohol glasses wipes are the way to go. Typically, we recommend use of a microfiber cloth, and then if needed, the microfiber can be dabbed with a touch of soapy water or non-alcohol glasses wipe. Lenses should be wiped in a circular fashion, starting at the center and moving outwards. 

 

Ultraviolet C Cleaner 

You likely don’t have an Ultraviolet C cleaner at your school, but it is something to consider adding to your repertoire. Ultraviolet C (UVC) cleaners like Cleanbox use a UVC lightbulb and about 1 minute of time to kill 99% of bacteria on any technology placed inside. Ultraviolet C light does not occur naturally on earth, so pathogens are not equipped to withstand exposure. As an extra plus- more than just VR headsets can be sanitized in these cleaners. Pretty much anything you can fit inside can be cleaned! 

 

If you’re interested in purchasing Cleanbox products, use referral code BM5 on their “Get a Quote” form for a one-time 5% discount.  

(Note: CareerViewXR’s parent company, Be More Colorful, is a Cleanbox partner. A percentage of every sale made with the above referral code is shared with Be More Colorful.) 

 

Optional Accessories  

Some headset manufacturers and third-party sellers offer optional accessories like additional face cushions or cushion covers that can be useful for maintaining cleanliness with large volumes of users. Face cushions can be swapped out in a moment and cleaned while another one is in use. Consider purchasing silicone or leather material cushions or covers for ease of cleaning. 

 

Usage Control & MDM Software 

Do you have concerns about what your students will get up to once they put the headset on? There are a few options available to set limits. One way is to utilize the headsets’ parental control tools. Simply set up an account for yourself as an administrator to act as the “parent” and one or more accounts for the students to use that will get limited. Examples of things you may want to consider blocking include social features and social apps, purchasing ability, non-educational apps, and developer mode. Developer mode is intended for developers to build and test apps, but it can also serve as a gateway to download apps via a connected device. Dig into your headset manufacturer’s parental controls to learn all of your options. 

 

Meta Quest Parental Supervision Settings 

HTC VIVE Parental Controls via VIVE Manager 

 

Mobile-device management or multi-device management (MDM) software like ArborXR, Meta Quest for Business, ManageXR, and VIVE Business Device Management System can make content management across your school’s VR headsets a breeze. Simply by logging into a control panel, educators can select which apps, videos, and files to remotely disperse to all headsets. Some of these platforms set your headset users into a customizable home screen that features only approved content. A lot of MDM software was developed with education and enterprise use cases in mind, so their features will likely address your needs. If your school has numerous headsets, we recommend taking a look into MDM solutions to make management more efficient.  

 

Storing your VR Headsets 

Where should you put your technology when not in use? In instances of small numbers of VR headsets, we recommend investing in sturdy cases rather than carrying them around loose or in the original boxes. Some cases even have built-in charging cables, allowing users to charge the headset and remote controls while keeping them nestled safely inside. For larger quantities of headsets, you may want to look into wheeled storage carts, not unlike those your school may already have for storing and charging laptops or tablets. 

 

There are various locations where we’ve seen VR headsets stored in school settings. Some choose to house them in their classrooms directly or in their technology department’s offices. Other more communal spaces that you may consider include your library, media center, career center, career and college counselors’ offices, or Esports room. Work together with your peers to see what location would make the most sense for your school to get the most out of this technology. 

 

Incorporating VR headsets into the classroom can enrich and supplement lessons on various subjects, making learning more interactive and engaging for learners. We hope this article has given you a few pointers to help make this technology experience enjoyable for not only them, but also educators like you! 

 

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About CareerViewXR 

CareerViewXR is an immersive career exploration platform that brings field trips to the classroom through 360-degree web-based tours and companion virtual reality videos. Students and adult job seekers alike can explore engaging tours highlighting in-demand industries like skilled trades, healthcare, energy, and more. Best of all – VR headsets are completely optional; the content is accessible on devices you already own – including laptops, cell phones, and tablets. Learn more at CareerViewXR.com. 


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