Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design and Development of Virtual Reality: Analysis of Challenges Faced by Educators

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Design and Development of Virtual Reality: Analysis of Challenges Faced by Educators

Article excerpt


There exists an increasingly attractive lure of using virtual reality applications for teaching in all areas of education, but perhaps the largest detriment to its use is the intimidating nature of VR technology for nontechnical instructors. What are the challenges to using VR technology for the design and development of VRbased instructional activities, and what are the recommended approaches? This paper addresses the issues regarding identifying the appropriate techniques for integrating VR into traditional instructional design, and the considerations for development for non-technical educators. Recommendations are grounded within our own project involving virtual anesthesia. The discussion considers budgetary limitations, funding, and other factors.


Virtual reality, Instructional design, Immersive systems, Instructional development


Technology is a pervasive force, it impacts the way that business is conducted, communication is relayed, healthcare is negotiated and knowledge is acquired. Major strides continue to develop in immersive technologies, and educators have taken notice, especially in the applications of virtual reality (VR) to teach engaging abstract conceptual relationships. Perhaps the booming computer and console game industry, with open-source and game engine toolkit opportunities, that is partly responsible for the shift to an increased interest in using immersive technologies for education. Educators want to take advantage of the immersive qualities that today's technology can provide with the intent to engage students in learning activities. Students have the opportunity to take advantage of the affordances of simulated environments, exploring a scenario's dimensions and pitfalls as they learn. It is exactly this type of motivational iterative process, the learning-while-doing, that lures today's educator to VR technology (see Bouras, Triantafillou & Tsiatsos 2002; Milrad, 2002; Sampson, Spector, Devedzic & Kinshuk, 2004).

Despite the growing interest, educators without engineering backgrounds still face significant challenges when trying to implement VR technology in their classrooms. Beyond the more obvious limitations of budget and technical knowledge, most teachers do not have a clear idea of what design and development considerations are important when planning to implement a VR system. We offer a consideration of why VR environments remain compelling to educators in non-engineering disciplines and how utilizing aspects of VR in their lessons remains a unique challenge. Based on our experiences, we then offer a reflection on the challenges of design and development of these applications on a personal level, and offer recommendations on an approach that may make sense for using VR based on traditional instructional practice. We offer our own project on teaching techniques for administering local anesthesia in dentistry as a specific example of utilizing this approach within the discussion. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is a conceptual exploration--using a synthesis of literature and approaches from engineering, computer science and education--offering a descriptive piece of our process with VR as educators. It is important to consider the issues that novice educators face, not only to help teachers form a plan-of- attack when considering implementing VR, but also to help inform engineers about the challenges that novices encounter. The result of sharing these issues should create new ideas for more complete instructional products that take advantage of immersive technologies for classroom use.

To this end, the following sections are organized in a way that first offers a synthesis of theory for VR and examples of VR applications before outlining the challenges of design: theory, processes and procedures. We then offer an outline for addressing theory, processes and procedures of development of VR systems for educational applications, followed by a summary of discussion for a "big picture" consideration of educational approaches. …

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