During last summer, an idea formed in my head to improve online education. It originated in a time when we saw that ‘learning together’ was not so obvious anymore. This made me realize that the social aspect of learning is so important for inspiring and efficient education.
In various conversations, students indicated they found it difficult to stay focused with video-calls. They often lack interaction with teachers and other students. And not everybody is immediately comfortable with technology, or has the right equipment.
Teachers indicated it was difficult to motivate a remote class if you only have a flat, small square screen. But it is also harder to ‘read’ students and see if everybody still follows you. Students are more reluctant to ask short questions, while teachers often struggle to keep students on-board that are noticeably loosing their focus.
All this has a negative impact on the effect of the class and results of students. This is not only a personal loss for the students, but is also worrying if you consider the big problems we need to solve in the world. A world that keeps getting more complex and needs smart, creative and skillfull people that can work together on new solutions. A good education is great for your own future, but also for the people around you. There is little we can solve alone in this world, and with good education we can better understand and cooperate with each other. Education in all its forms, is our way to prepare people for their future.
The new opportunities
If you agree that online education (fulltime or parttime) is here to stay, then how can we make the best of it? While I was searching for new forms of online interaction, I noticed something interesting had happened with Virtual Reality technology. Thanks to a technology called WebXR, it is now possible to explore and communicate in virtual worlds directly from your web browser. This might not sound as sexy as the latest VR headsets or augmented reality solutions. But, the impact is much more significant: social virtual worlds are now available to everybody with a laptop and a modern browser. Even without a virtual headset, it is already a surprisingly different experience then having a video-call. It’s something that gamers will already know. You can immerse in a virtual world without the need for headsets or 100% realistic scenery.
Of course, your laptop and browser are no match for a Playstation in terms of creating virtual experiences. But you will be surprised what is already possible, and how we can experiment and offer real education in online worlds with today’s technology. The rapid adoption of online learning in the past year is certainly helping here. Teachers and students are way more comfortable with digital tools. Also, more students have access to online education (although we are not there yet). And don’t forget that many people are already used to navigating virtual worlds via video games; something we also experience in our tests.
The most interesting part of this, are the new opportunities for learning environments. Common video tools like Zoom or Teams restrict you to sharing your webcam or your desktop, but in virtual worlds you can create anything you like. Want to practise German vocabulary in a Berlin shopping street? Train your factory personnel from their homes (even if it is still under construction)? Give some extra instruction to a group of students in a private classroom? Follow business trainings and do some networking in a virtual office? Display your graduation project to everybody in the world? Send students on a discovery through a virtual museum? And these are just the first examples to pop into my head…
For almost every learning goal and situation, online education can have a positive contribution. It can help to create better understanding, more motivation and facilitate remote interaction. At the same time it is not a replacement for all we have. It is up to the teachers and educators to see where and when online education should be applied or not.
A platform to discover, together
In the past months I spoke with different people working in schools, universities and business training. I talked to them to find out if virtual reality technology can improve online education. Besides that this is a lot of fun to do, the great thing you see is that everybody is immediately enthusiastic about the possibilities. Three dimensional virtual learning environments facilitate a new way of online teaching. And one that fits very well with modern principles like more self-steering and project based learning.
imedu was born from this research, and is short for ‘immersive education’. Our purpose is to make virtual education accessible to as many teachers and students as possible, anywhere in the world. We are still in beta at this moment, but are working hard to grow the team and community.
Support students and teachers worldwide with offering interactive, inspiring and effective online education
Our mission is clear: we support teachers and educators to create more understanding, knowledge and cooperation in the world. Regardless of looking at your own future, helping the world, or solving complex problems in your work, we always need to understand both facts as well as each other. We need to be able to see different perspectives and work and communicate with each other in language, images or art.
To achieve this we need to search for new ways to inspire and motivate. We do this with the right focus. Instead of trying to work with the best existing alternative to recreate a standard classroom, we look at how to use the new opportunities of online education to improve both existing and future education.
The core of ‘better learning’ is creating the best learning experience for both teachers and students in all ages. The best products are always created with future users, and that is why we want to cooperate with teachers, educators AND students to build better online education. We develop simple and technical solutions, help teachers and students to exchange ideas, and help people to experiment.
Focus on impact
We want to create a sustainable company where making impact is the main goal. To make sure that happens we set up three core values that represent how we work:
Strive for impact
Look for the challenge
The launch of the new website is the first step. In the coming weeks you will find more features and information to try virtual education. In parallel we keep testing and improving our platform, and search for partners that want to help us with our mission.
We are ready to go!
imedu is currently running on personal funding. Besides offering custom work for commercial parties and assignments for schools and universities, we strive to help more students and teachers from public schooling with experimenting in online education. Are you interested to help of do you have any questions?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org