Teachers in a Polish high school have used Half-Life: Alyx to teach maths, science, and languages lessons remotely due to the pandemic (via UploadVR).
The staff of Szkoła 33 started to experiment with virtual reality lessons only five days after online learning became mandatory due to the lockdown in Poland. Collaborating with local media company OFFshot, six VR sessions for a number of school subjects. Inside the game, the teachers use the pens and blackboards dotted around City 17 to draw out diagrams and spell vocabulary. In real life, they deliver the lesson in the empty classroom, and this is tucked away into a corner as a picture in picture representation.
Grounding the lessons in the school space is important to the staff of Szkoła 33, in order to be “familiar” while the lockdown keeps children indoors. “We believe the students liked them,” said Katarzyna Sut, an English and Spanish teacher and webpage administrator. “From younger kids to teenagers, we have seen all of the age groups of our school gather together on Facebook to watch them. Going by the emojis they shared and reacted with, as well as the comments, they enjoyed them very much.”
The school hopes that the VR lessons won’t be a one-time thing, but it will be dependent on what classrooms are like post-pandemic. “We hope to be back at school in September, and if it all works out, we plan to have regular classes, at school, using the VR technology,” continued Sut. “Preferably, all kids will be able to take such a class at least once a week, but that depends on the situation around us, too.”
Additionally, the possibilities of using virtual reality technology in education are dizzying. “We can use VR to take them on virtual tours to another country, to another planet–the sky is the limit here,” enthused Sut. “The cognitive process becomes more natural, as opposed to just reading about things in books. VR looks very promising. We are very optimistic about it right now.”
Half-Life: Alyx is out now for all PC VR platforms.