E-learning has taken the education world by storm. According to ‘elearningfeeds.com’ 98% of organizations are predicted to use some form of e-learning coursework as part of their learning approach. In an article published by the University of North Texas at Dallas, e-learning is proven to increase knowledge retention from 25% to 60% (certifyme.net). Currently there are more than 4.6 million college students taking at least one course online (certifyme.net). Perhaps the most eyeopening statistic is the projection stating that 50% of all college courses will be taught online by 2019 (certifyme.net).
It is fair to say that e-learning is a certified mega-trend. The ubiquitous digital age is introducing increasingly convenient modes of content organization that caters well to pedagogical curricula. This post won’t continue to beat down a very apparent evolution that everyone is accustomed to, but rather, I would like to emphasize the potential role of virtual reality in the e-learning industry. Many online courses have leveraged video as a controlled medium that is readily available for consumption. Echo360 is considered a leader in lecture capture solutions. Many classes within Boston College are utilizing the Echo360 platform as an accompanied resource for selected courses; the company touts themselves as a leader in the industry, providing solutions for over 6000 classrooms. In my opinion the platform is very robust, providing a variety of options for video and audio capture quality. The issue is that video quality is less than sub-par. As a student I found it very difficult to decipher what the Professor was writing on the board because of quality issues.
I wondered; is this the best the e-learning industry can do? With such an undertow of a demand, one would think that video quality would be passed 480 pixels. The cameras themselves certainly look futuristic, the software panel provides endless options for the instructor but still, we’re working with 480 pixels. From a learning prospective, shouldn’t the video quality take precedence? The user is merely viewing a video in a controlled state, absorbing what needs to be absorbed when it is absorbed, therefore, I would argue, that video quality should be a priority when providing an e-learning solution. Another question worth asking is; what is beneficial from the classroom environment? The exchange of ideas without any barriers is a value that is presented in the classroom setting. A community of fellow learners can ask a question that leads to answers, providing a highly interactive environment that isn’t completely focused on the Professor but rather the classroom as a whole; learning within and from a community.
Virtual reality will successfully leverage the valuable classroom environment and present a learning experience in a controlled e-learning environment. Imagine a 360 degree camera that is placed at the center of a live classroom. The user can interact with the footage and look around the classroom to gauge the environment of fellow students. This type of learning experience would give rise to greater flexibility in regards to engaging not only the professor but the learning community. Users would be able to engage questions, zoom in at 4K resolution and look at the finest details on the chalk board. They would be able to chime in on opportune interactive discussions between individual/groups and the professor, all while having the luxury of repeating the footage as many times as one would like. 3D camera solutions are in development, GoPro has taken a different route, developing a rig that holds 6 GoPro cameras (spherical rig). The patched footage successfully compiles into a lush, interactive 3D video experience. Last Monday Google released a VR campaign dubbed; the Expeditions Pioneer Program, a free field trip simulator that allows students to experience distant environments to spec, such as Mars. The Expeditions program offers over 100 virtual sites for students to engage with. The release of the program extended to other international countries such as Brazil, New Zealand and the UK (observer.com). Interactivity goes hand in hand with virtual reality, the growth in the e-learning industry must eventually address the value of the parallel trend that is virtual reality.