Four diverse students wearing VR goggles in desk row of college class

How to Navigate Virtual Classrooms and Digital Learning as a Student

Digital education is constantly changing, and students have no choice but to keep up. Learn how to enhance learning with virtual reality, AI, and more.

Colleges and universities have increased their dependence on technology, software, and devices over the past 20 years. What once was a traditional practice of handwriting assignments quickly turned to digital project submissions. The average student is expected to have tech knowledge far beyond what was once expected merely a decade ago. Even the rise in remote learning has led to an educational renaissance, with many institutions exploring new ways to utilize virtual learning and groundbreaking educational software. Let’s explore the landscape of virtual learning and how students can prepare for the ever-evolving digital landscape of higher education.

Exploring virtual classrooms and VR learning

Since 2020, remote learning has become much more accessible for both students and teachers. Students who can’t attend class can keep up with their studies through recorded lectures stored on cloud-based technology such as Google Drive. Though convenient, these options lack the immersive experience of in-person learning. To resolve this, virtual classroom curriculums have been adapted to increase hands-on learning opportunities. Virtual classrooms allow students anywhere to connect in ways other remote learning options don’t offer.

Usually, a virtual classroom is an environment that uses video conferencing, presentation software, and communication channels to allow students and educators to share materials and exchange ideas. Many educators and administrations opt for Zoom due to its ease of use and popularity, but as needs in online learning change and artificial intelligence (AI) gains traction, virtual classrooms may not cut it anymore. This is where virtual reality (VR) comes in.

Learning through virtual reality

Though not as widely popular as traditional virtual classrooms (yet!), VR offers even more immersive learning experiences. Students can use headsets such as the Meta Quest, which comes with handheld controllers and movement tracking, for more interactive presentations. One great benefit of VR learning is saving on travel. Teachers can take you on virtual trips to different locations or periods in time, simulating a shared travel experience that’s tailored to enhance your learning. This is a fantastic option for students who are unable to travel due to financial obstacles, disabilities, or other reasons.

This kind of immersion enhances overall connection with the subject matter and helps you retain information. Many higher education learning modules are lecture based, a method that alienates those who struggle with this type of learning. A study showed that students who engaged in VR learning remembered the information more efficiently than those who participated in traditional modules. Since many students working toward undergraduate and graduate degrees have grown up in a largely digital world, it makes sense to utilize technology in the learning environment accordingly for the best outcomes.

Related: Beyond the Textbook: 4 Places to Look for Modern Academic Resources

Integrating artificial intelligence with education

Virtual reality isn’t the only rapidly advancing technology changing the educational space. AI has become a central focus in the education and working world, making complex or tedious processes simpler. Students have become familiar with using AI chatbots such as Chat GPT to assist them with schoolwork. Though some parents may worry about students using this technology to cheat on assignments, AI can be incredibly helpful for the learning process if used correctly. When prompted, chatbots can easily generate a series of ideas you can use as inspiration for assignments and projects. It can also help break down difficult subjects by using specific terms and associations you’re able to grasp.

Benefits of AI for students and teachers

AI tools can help both students and teachers develop time-efficient study and lesson plans. While chatbots are great for generating sample questions for exams, other AI programs like Duolingo act as virtual tutors for students, teaching new languages and skills through vocal and gamified learning. Educators can even use AI software like Roshi to generate discussion questions and text summaries from uploaded articles. This helps create on-the-fly lesson plans for important current events and trending topics. And if your teachers’ lesson plans are better, your education will be better. AI also works well for the revision process of writing for school. Tools like Grammarly assess written work and highlight spelling errors and grammar issues while pointing out other areas for improvement.

Related: A New Learning Ethos: What Does the Future of AI Look Like for Education?

How students can prepare for digital learning

Though many students are already quite familiar with the tech world, there are still ways you can better prepare for the recent emphasis on digital proficiency.

Get familiar with new technology

Find ways to get to know virtual learning applications and AI tools before the semester begins. Get your hands on a VR headset or explore ChatGPT’s capabilities with various prompts. Getting familiar with these tools that you can expect to remain relevant gives you the chance to apply this knowledge properly in the classroom.

Play around with AI

Experimenting with AI outside of school teaches you how to ethically employ it for your studies. It can be easy to use chatbots or text generators and submit exactly what the AI program gives you, but you’ll find there are better ways to use these tools than resorting to outright plagiarism. Utilize them to enhance your learning, not shortcut it. 

Ask your school for support

Since technology is expensive to purchase and own, you should try reaching out to your school about ways to receive free or subsidized phones, computers, and other devices. Many colleges partner with tech companies and offer students discounted rates. If you live off campus, your school may be able to connect you to a low-cost internet service for the duration of your attendance.

Related: The Best Colleges and Universities for Access to Student Support Services

As institutions continue to adopt new digital education practices, conversation and exploration of advanced technology must be encouraged. Virtual learning is highly beneficial and notably increases information retention. Advocating for technology to be more accessible for all students and learning how to properly use these tools will only create a more inclusive and functional learning environment for you and your peers.

As technology and education adapt, so must you. Pick up new abilities for a new era of learning with Our Best Advice on Building Important Skills as a Student.

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