The challenges of VR and how to minimize them.

The Cost: Despite the many benefits of VR, one of the most common reasons why virtual reality has not been adopted into classrooms around the world, is the cost. The cost for implementing virtual reality in classrooms includes but is not limited to what it costs to purchase the equipment, both the hardware and the software, what it costs for maintenance and replacement parts, and what it costs for training. Furthermore, according to the journal, Themes in Science and Technology Education, many creators are not willing to produce and manufacture virtual reality software and hardware without a high demand for it. The journal states, in reference to a game called Arden, The World of Shakespeare, and the $250,000 grant that was given to produce it, “users did not enjoy the game, and while $250,000 may sound like substantial investment, the authors stated that it was a ‘drop in the bucket’ in comparison to the funding that is required to produce the published games users are probably familiar with” (Kavanagh, et al., 2017). This means that unless schools are responding well and there is a high need for software, creators are most likely not willing to produce virtual reality games. With a limited supply of virtual reality games and educational applications, the price for this software must stay considerably high. Of course, there is always a market for educational virtual reality applications like Arden, The World of Shakespeare, in non-school settings like museums and art galleries that could encourage the production of more software, but again, the demand for this software would have to be high enough to make the cost of production justifiable to some creators.
How to Minimize Cost: The following graphic compares the price of various VR headsets per device in US dollars
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The most comparable classroom VR headsets to the above devices are RobotLab and ClassVR.
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RobotLab ClassVR
The cost per bundle of Robotlab devices is $6900 and is compatible with any IOS device. The cost per bundle of ClassVR devices is $4299. This may seem like both options are a lot of money, but if we consider replacing VR sets with other curriculum and tools that schools are currently using, we can see that VR can be very cost effective. According to the California Department of Education, the average cost per grade level bundle of a science curriculum for 25 students is $3400. The average number of classes most California schools have per grade level is 5. This means the average science curriculum in California costs $17,000 per grade level. The table below compares the cost of the average science curriculum against a class set of VR devices.

VR versus science curriculum
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Curriculum Tool
Average cost per bundle
Number of classrooms
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Curriculum Tool
Average cost per bundle
Number of classrooms
Total per grade level
Notes
1
Science curriculum bundle
3400
5
$17,000.00
Open
2
ClassVR bundle
4299
5
$21,495.00
Open
3
RobotLab bundle
6900
5
$34,500.00
Open
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Although Robotlab is significantly higher in price, it is also compatible with all IOS devices and Chromebooks, so most schools would not need to purchase additional materials, and the devices could be used for more than just science. Note that ClassVR, while not compatible with all devices, is significantly less than RobotLab, and is much closer in comparison to the average science curriculum. ClassVR can also be used throughout all curriculum and is not just limited to science. There are many ways to make purchasing VR for the classroom cost effective.

Physical Side Effects: Another common concern about the use of virtual reality in the classroom are the minor physical side effects it could cause. For instance, in a study from the university of Nicosia, some reported issues included neck fatigue from the prolonged wearing of the head mounted devices (HDM) because the HDM’s have weight to them. There have been vast improvements in the size and weight of the device since earlier models, but because the device must wrap around the users eyes, and is powered with hardware, there is still a weight to the devices that users are not used to. Another issue related to the prolonged use of the HDM is “that of eye strain resulting from poor adjustments of the optics and other effects such as flicker in the display” (Christou, 2010). Again, this issue is only significant after prolonged use of the device and can be avoided with frequent breaks. Another side effect that was reported from a study in the journal, Virtual Reality, was cybersickness. “Cybersickness is a condition that indicates symptoms of nausea, disorientation and oculomotor during and/or after experiencing virtual environments in head-mounted displays, large screens, and curved screen systems” (Kaimara, et al., 2020 ). When studying these effects of adolescent age children, researchers had children play the same exact game on a 2-dimensional screen without a head piece. The feedback was that students experienced much higher levels of dizziness with the virtual reality version of the game than with the 2D version.

One of the best ways to avoid cybersickness is to take frequent breaks while using VR. Like any digital device, it is not healthy for our eyes to be exposed to a digital screen for long periods of time. Additionally, new users of VR technology would need time to get used to wearing the device before they feel fully comfortable. This video highlights specific ways to beat motion sickness (cybersickness) associated with VR.

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