The Oculus Rift as a Learning Device



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In the early history of computing devices, it was thought that these machines would enhance the productivity and general knowledge of its users, while also making their lives and work easier to manage. Most of these predictions turned out to be accurate, as computers have nowadays become a significant part of our lives, both for entertainment and educational purposes. Of course there are several downsides of the accelerating technological progress, but its advantages certainly exceed the drawbacks. However, people have correctly foretold that computers would play a crucial part in our daily lives.

When it comes to the Oculus Rift and its possible uses, people often regard it as a gaming device – a headset paired with their computer that enables them to experience the games they are playing more vividly. The reason for this frequent association between the Oculus Rift and the virtual reality of video games is quite a simple one – video games are currently the most developed type of virtual realities. Since this is a new kind of device, thus not so widely spread, predictions about its future applications are based on computer users’ previous experience with VR. But the fast-paced technological advance, which is a prominent feature of our times, will certainly lead to a wider range of practical uses of this gadget in many fields of activity. This article is focused on its applications in the expanding field of eLearning.

On the one hand, picture the impact that the Oculus Rift would have on students all over the world, regardless of what they’re studying. The eLearning solutions aided by the Oculus Rift could change our perception upon school and teaching forever. Chemistry, physics, geography, history, and many other classes would considerably evolve from a basic oral presentation of some facts that the students have to write down and memorize to an ultimate, vivid experience of the discussed issue. For instance, any chemical experiment could be performed by students without the possibility of causing any bodily harm to themselves. Teachers would not have to worry about safety issues in class, as all the experiments would take place in a virtual scenario. Also, the long, intricate stories told by teachers during history classes would turn into a session in which students could witness the historical events themselves and feel as if they were a part of it with the help of the Oculus Rift. Every bit of theory would be accompanied by visual cues, thus the process of learning would become easier, faster and more effective.

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On the other hand, not only students could benefit from this new technology, but many employees, too, regardless of their positions in the work field. For example, salesmen and people working in Customer Service departments could experiment with many real-life scenarios before actually having to deal with real customers. At the present moment, many employees’ first encounter with difficult clients occurs while they’re at their workplace; many times, their training process did not include any information upon dealing with angry or impatient people. Every agent has to handle the situation according to his own social skills; if they are poor, the client is dissatisfied.  The computer-assisted learning techniques augmented by the Oculus Rift could provide the best training and preparation for employees who are required to interact with discontented people or customers that are not interested in the product that they have to sell. The possibility of experiencing unpleasant encounters or dialogues with people who are unwilling to cooperate in a virtual environment can increase the quality of the employees’ work, as they can face certain troublesome situations over and over until they are able to manage them properly. The vividness of the experience would lead to better control of their emotional response in delicate situations. Moreover, salesmen would be able to exercise their persuasion skills and get better results once they start work.

New technologies can prove themselves to be extremely helpful to those who have to perform different activities in hazardous environments, where the risk of being exposed to toxic substances is high. There are many ways in which a wide range of employees, from those who work in the field of agriculture or construction to firemen and medical laboratory scientists, could benefit from training sessions based upon e-learning solutions and visual simulations on the Oculus Rift. Firstly, they would get the chance of making beginner mistakes without actually putting themselves at risk. Therefore, spilling poisonous substances, dropping heavy objects, or entering burning buildings would not cause them any real harm – they could easily go on with their activity as if nothing had happened. Secondly, practicing in a virtual environment before moving on to the real one and having the possibility to keep track of their progress through the e-learning solutions ensures that the employees will be completely prepared to manage different situations at their workplace successfully.

The possibilities are endless. The applications of the eLearning solutions aided by the Oculus Rift could extend to almost every field of activity. The wide-ranging benefits could be drawn by everyone, from children who are still in school to adults who go to work. Therefore, picturing the Oculus Rift as a plain gaming device actually is an extremely restrictive view upon this amazing device that can entirely change so many aspects of our lives.

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