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Augmented reality platforms emerge as computer science teaching tool

VR and AR tools are slowly growing in use in classrooms. Previously, simple Google Cardboard headsets, often priced under $10, allowed students to access VR content when used in tandem with a smartphone, as reported in 2018.

These tools allow students in classes such as history and English language arts to visit locations from the Pyramids of Giza to the Guggenheim Museum, taking virtual field trips through their mobile device with content that is often free. Technology classes, such as computer science also use virtual tools today, with colleges weaving AR and VR tools into classrooms and course programs, as well.

Even as early as a year ago, however, robust virtual reality headsets were too expensive for regular classrooms. The Oculus Rift, for example, which delivers truly immersive content — often including sound and tactile feedback so students can actually feel as if they were in a snowstorm — remained out of reach for most school communities, priced at more than $1,500 for the device and a computer that could deliver that kind of experience.

Recently, however, the prices of these devices have dropped, in some cases to as low as $199 for an Oculus Go or $99 for Google’s Daydream View. Even then, that cost may still be too pricey for schools in which administrators and curriculum specialists may not see a VR headset as crucial a tech tool as a computer or a tablet. Some schools may also have more pressing technological needs, such as general upgrades to their broadband infrastructure.

Like computers, though, AR and VR tools are likely to shift from a nice-to-have to what some see as a necessity as the cost to entry lowers and amount of material designed for the medium increases. Chief academic officers, IT staffs and others in administration should keep abreast of how these devices and their available content are developing so they'll be better prepared to adopt them if or when the time comes. 


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