Let’s get right to it: here are 3 trends I expect to play out for VR in the higher education market in 2023.
#1: Acceleration of hardware adoption
#2: Multiplication of critical use cases driving stickiness
#3: Identification of best practices for scalable deployment
To avoid making this a useless crystal-ball gazing exercise, I’m basing those on what we learned from our 50+ clients in higher education and the 230 applications we received from tertiary education institutions for our immersive soft skills grant with Meta.
Acceleration of hardware adoption
Early adopters of VR for learning have spent the past couple of years piloting multiple apps on a small scale to demonstrate learner appetite and learning performance.
Strong results have led institutions to position VR as an essential component of their digital transformation plans for the next 5 years. In the applications we’ve received, we’ve read about numerous institutions, including budget lines for VR hardware, software, and human support, at a scale far beyond the pilot stage.
In 2023, this will lead to more case studies and best practices being shared, which could turn into a snowball effect for adoption in this highly networked market.
“This means VR is now being adopted not as an innovation or PR stunt but as a meaningful opportunity to tackle mission-critical objectives.”
Multiplication of critical use cases driving stickiness
Increasingly, institutions are zeroing in on specific institutional challenges for VR. Those are varied, widely shared, and often critical. Grant applications mentioned objectives like solving teacher shortages, plugging the employability skills gap for students, supporting inclusivity in teaching practice, improving the cost-effectiveness and repeatability of practice-based learning, or widening participation and access for underserved populations.
“This means VR is now being adopted not as an innovation or PR stunt but as a meaningful opportunity to tackle mission-critical objectives. Therefore, it’s getting the necessary level of senior leadership buy-in for institutions to invest the financial and human resources required to overcome the initial deployment hurdles.”
Identification of best practices for scalable deployment
Finally, we’re seeing VR leave the FabLab, where there was always a high risk that headsets would start gathering dust on the shelf next to the 3D printer. Instead, immersive learning has triggered investment in more permanent installations as part of long-term initiatives, often supported by technology-enhanced learning teams, library services, and increasingly dedicated VR teams.
In 2023, a favourable environment will emerge to test and lock in how immersive learning modalities can be durably integrated into the curriculum or services provided by the institutions.
Where This Leads, Optimistically
In theory, we’re starting to cross the chasm from early adopters to the early majority, leaving a purely explorative stage to start embedding immersive learning as a proven approach to meaningfully improving student outcomes.
As multiple VR applications start being used on shared devices, integrated into the curriculum, and the learning performance data captured remains strong, the ROI of XR initiatives will increase, creating a virtuous cycle of adoption > mutualization of use cases > ROI > adoption.
What could go wrong?
Things will go awry if hardware adoption is not matched by investment in deployment capabilities. Or if deployment best practices and use cases are kept from the broader industry concurrently with this adoption.
Then VR learning initiatives could perform poorly, creating the misperception of an underwhelming cost-benefit ratio for XR learning as a whole and grinding the aforementioned virtuous cycle to a halt.
Working with educators
As software creators, it is essential for us to collaborate closely with educational institutions. We need to deeply understand the industry’s overall direction and the practical challenges faced in the field.
We will use that knowledge and those relationships to co-design solutions that can impact students’ outcomes individually and empower institutions to bring experiential learning cost-efficiently to traditionally underserved populations.
See also, Can VR Impact Higher Ed Classroom?