From conducting practicals in school laboratories with every student trying to get the closest peek at a life-like visualisation of how atoms behave in different combinations via VR (virtual reality), STEM education has traversed a long journey. While on one hand, students find it immensely captivating to access real-life experiences through digital intervention, it is interesting to note the far-reaching impact of VR learning on careers.
STEM education has become an integral part of global education with the aim of providing students with the maximum possible practical exposure and hands-on experience in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. STEM has ushered a new world of work, an era marked by rapid technological advancements transforming the way we live and work - robots pursuing intellectual conversations with humans, books being turned into eBooks, virtual reality headsets allowing you to dive into a molecular structure and learn about the human anatomy in virtual environments. Not only is the present so vibrant with STEM, but what the future holds is even more exciting.
According to research, 80% of the jobs created in the next decade will require some form of mathematics and science skills. However, the question is: Are we preparing our students well enough for these exciting next-generation STEM jobs? A technological marvel, virtual reality can integrate technology with education to prepare learners for the future world of work, where STEM careers are likely to take precedence.
How VR enhances STEM Education
To be prepared for a tech-enabled future world of work, it is important to integrate technology with education. Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, all these disciplines include research and experimentation that may be difficult to understand and unfruitful to learn without supervision. Virtual reality is one of the most intriguing methodologies to prepare students for complex subjects as well as create a foundation for next-generation STEM jobs.
Learning never gets boring with VR
STEM concepts require a great deal of patience and relentless practice. It also requires keeping up with countless theories, formulas, and concepts that are not always fun to learn in a classroom setting. Students may become easily bored and disengaged while learning STEM concepts. VR offers an engaging and fun way to understand the concepts, thereby making them better equipped to apply the knowledge at work. Distraction-free learning in VR is helping teachers grab the attention of learners, thereby facilitating meaningful classroom discussions as well.
Making complex concepts easier
STEM concepts contain a vast array of theories and formulas. However, because the majority of these ideas and notions are abstract, it can be challenging for a student to comprehend them through the simple act of reading a text, hearing a lecture, or even viewing a 2D diagram. With the use of VR technology, ideas and concepts become interactive, which makes them easier to comprehend. For instance, if medical students were given the opportunity to observe, learn, and conduct dissections and surgeries in virtual reality, they would feel more confident conducting real-life procedures. VR brings an uninhabited, non-judgmental environment to practice and learn repeatedly without distractions. Learners feel liberated as VR-based learning is in their hands, allowing them to learn at their own pace.
Making education real and practical
Post-pandemic, learning has already started to shift from traditional classroom settings to more virtual ones. Through VR, students can enter virtual work locations and campuses to learn and explore jobs that they are fascinated by. For instance, civil engineers can take a safe virtual tour of a construction site where they can design buildings; aerospace professionals can stand right next to a virtual rocket engine; chemical engineers can observe the interactions of chemicals without endangering their safety. VR gives students a chance to get an inside look at a work environment before landing a job. Furthermore, educational institutions that are adopting new-age teaching and learning methodologies are also able to retain more students. School leaders are taking pride in introducing tech-enabled solutions to make learning fun, easy, and experiential. They consider this an investment and not an expense, with a view to maintaining the institutions’ prestige and keeping up with the global advancements in education.
Enhancing training and upskilling mechanisms
VR opens a door of possibilities for training, skilling, and upskilling. Through immersive environments, students can interact with peers around the globe, experience their live environments, and exchange knowledge with better synergies. For instance, a young student in India can actively participate in an immersive training session in Australia via virtual avatars, making the process more meaningful. Getting a feel of the real environment of a geographically distant location, and virtually performing experiments or creating softwares; the sky's the limit to where VR can take you. Immersive ecosystems can provide engineers-in-training with huge exposure to global skills, and access to a wide range of job opportunities. This further demonstrates the vast and intriguing range of potential uses for VR, not to mention the numerous educational applications and users who stand to gain from it.
New technologies like automation, machine learning, and augmented reality are changing employment prospects in the global job market. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), one billion jobs, or almost one-third of all jobs worldwide, are expected to be affected by technology in the upcoming decade. Millions of new employment possibilities are being generated daily, and millions of existing ones are being replaced by new ones that offer greater pay and recognition. With its immersive virtual environment and impactful applications, VR has the potential to prepare learners better for next-gen STEM jobs.
This article has been written by Mehak Aggarwal, Chief Impact & Enablement Officer - School Market, Launch My Career