As part of an internship at ‘Fabrique des formations’ of the University of Lille, we conducted a survey on teaching practices and virtual reality in class. Although the teachers who took part in this study had various backgrounds, the reflection that we propose in this study is of a general nature and could be applied to several fields of expertise. A state of the art on higher education and virtual reality was carried out and served as a basis for the drafting of a semi-directed interview guide which led to several interviews with teachers with various levels of experience, ranging from no experience to more than five years of experience with teaching with virtual reality. We also interviewed a multimedia instructional designer and a virtual reality researcher and had the opportunity to observe a virtual reality course taught at university.
First, our analyses seem to indicate a change in the role of the teacher which would be induced by this new media that is virtual reality. Virtual reality would also be a source of development for teachers, particularly in terms of changes in practices that would move more towards learning by doing or simulation. We then note technological, logistical and communication difficulties in the classroom that affect the learning moments as well as attempts to experiment with learning through simulation. The difficulty in designing original content raises problems of scripting and the lack of pre-developed resources does not allow for the variation of learning situations hence limiting the opportunities for the learner to progress. Finally, the VR teacher seems to struggle with a lack of visibility of the learner's activity. This lack of visibility of the virtual reality activity, which we will call the blind spot, could constitute an interesting field of research in the sense that the origins of these concerns are not yet clearly defined. These concerns relate to the lack of visibility of the activity, of the results, of error diagnoses, and the impossibility of measuring the learner's progress.
In conclusion, the use of virtual reality in higher education requires several types of knowledge; technological but also in learning through simulation. Classroom management, specific to virtual reality, can also become cumbersome for learning and intense for the teacher. The lack of skills in these different areas, but also the lack of awareness of the different obstacles to the use of this technology, not yet totally adapted to teaching, can become critical for student learning. Finally, training in the use of the technology, in the management of the organization of activities and in learning through simulation could be offered to teachers in order to help them in this change of role induced by this new technology. The use of the classroom management method developed by Doerner and Horst could prove useful. However, there may be a need to build on the flexible classroom by providing other activities in the instructional scenario, not necessarily using digital technology. Further study could also be devoted to identifying the origins of the blind spot concerns. We can already ask ourselves if the blind spot is a symptom of immersion or a symptom of this new teacher role that puts the emphasis on observation or is it simply a symptom of teaching itself that virtual reality and the development of artificial intelligence would like to find a cure for?
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