Photo by Stephan Sorkin on Unsplash

It is silent around me. The only think I hear is the light sound of the waves which are splashing on the tropical beach beach. I can feel the sand around my naked feet and when I open my eyes, I see nothing more than a blue sky, a deserted beach and kilometers of palms which wave lightly in the wind. Fantastic! For some hours I could not imagine to be here. All flights are cancelled, and no one is allowed to leave the vicinity around the house because of the COVID-19 restrictions. But here I am!

A second later everything gets black. What happens? I wonder. “Battery low” appears in front of my eyes. Great! I take off my Virtual Reality goggles and leave the playground’s sandbox in which I placed myself to provide my feet a realistic sand feeling. My little experiment to blend real live sand feeling with virtual visual and audio beach input from YouTube worked actually so well that I started to wonder if Virtual Reality can be of help for my post-COVID-19 blended learning teaching project.

Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) I think are excellent tools for practical laboratory work. Labs are a constituent component of many higher educational curriculum. However, laboratories are also expensive. Universities have to rent rooms, buy, and maintain equipment, and sometimes even employ lab-assistants or technicians who operate the lab for us. Sure, VR and AR are not coming without any cost, but the total cost over time can be low. Multiple teachers/courses can use the same equipment for different labs, the prices for sufficient good quality VR googles are decreasing, AR applications can be used in students’ mobile devices, and the necessary (empty) laboratory space needed for VR can be easily transformed back to an ordinary classroom or project workshop for the rest of the time a lab is not taking place.

VR and AR are also great tools for blended learning. They facilitate teachers to show students e.g. complex three-dimensional details and systems, or enable them to expose their students to situations which would not be possible in real live, e.g. time traveling.  VR is also active learning. And I mean that both pedagogically and literally. A good designed virtual laboratory can be both very motivating and physical activating for a student. Both supporting learning. VR and AR also provide the possibility to combine a laboratory with elements from the gaming world. Receiving immediately feedback by gaining points or playing collaborative in a team are only some advantages of game-based learning. But the biggest plus is: it is a lot of fun! To blend into new exiting environments which one probably will never see in real, to meet people which are dead since centuries, or to simply ignore for a moment the laws of physics, are positive experiences which stay in mind and which can, if done correctly, support significantly the student’s individual learning.

But now it’s time for me to turn back to my VR beach, or should I better choose to fight some virus infected zombies in 3D to be better prepared for what might come soon if they decide to hold us all locked up for the next upcoming months? Maybe I will do both! First the zombies and then the beach! Sounds good.

A Blended Reality