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St. Lucia: Education Innovation-Hybrid Learning and VR

The way in which we live and do business is rapidly changing in 2018, and the next frontier for rapid evolution is education. The next generation of the Caribbean family will face new opportunities and challenges in equal measure, and an education system that prepares them for the future will see them seize upon the promise ahead.

The best thing about this new era is the potential for it to be truly affordable, accessible, and engaging for students across a variety of nations, institutions, and interests. And at the heart of it is the promise Virtual Reality (VR) offers in this space.

VISUALIZING THE FUTURE

For many years now a big shift has been underway in education. We’ve already seen the first wave as the rise of the online arena has brought a world of resources to our doorstep. Universal access to information has ensured education is contemporary and dynamic. Historically it could take months or even years to receive textbooks locally; today downloads happen in minutes.

But for all the pace and scale of change so far, we’ve really just scratched the surface. Education in 2018 is now online, but not yet truly digital. The shift towards a new era will see the Caribbean drive towards blended and hybrid learning, and the versatility each offers in turn.

HYBRID LEARNING AND VR

Blended and hybrid learning share similarities, but are ultimately independent of one another.

Blended learning provides for learning online and offline. Hybrid learning emphasises learning across a wide variety of mediums. It’s here that hybrid learning makes a natural fit with VR tech.

VR may still be in its relative youth but already its potential for education is clear. This begins with the most elemental requirement of education: being present for instruction. Already VR is being used in sports, business and elsewhere to replicate an environment for a user sitting at home. Right now this tech is being used chiefly for a basketball game or sales conference. But soon, it could have real applications for the classroom. Not only would it remove the need for students to be present all the time, but also provide an ongoing experience outside of it.

Homework that involves memorising data out of a textbook may not set a student’s heart racing, but bonus ‘after hours’ content that features guest lectures from renowned teachers could.

The benefits are not only apparent for what VR could add, but what it could remove. Chiefly, lost time. While our world may be rapidly globalizing, the reality of kilometers and miles remains. Students freed from a long commute could spend time studying instead of travelling.

For now this may largely be the domain of higher education as the youngest years of a student’s life also emphasises the importance of growing social skills alongside reading, writing and maths. But even so, the possibilities are exciting as, via VR, students from the Caribbean could easily sit in a VR class at Stanford, although they are not in California, or the Sorbonne, even though they are not in Paris.

For educational institutions this is also a win-win: many of the world’s most respected universities expand their online offerings but there’s also a growing tension between the high costs and length of traditional university education when considered alongside the rapid evolution of our global economy.

This dynamic can quickly render existing knowledge dated, and require ongoing learning throughout a career as opposed to a ‘one and done’ period of education to serve as a foundation for a lifetime of work.

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