Education through the lens of VR

By Richard Henderson, Director of Global Education Solutions, Lenovo

When we think of education, our mind often drifts to an experience bound by classroom walls and heads buried in textbooks. But the introduction of virtual reality (VR) technology is helping transform experiences, forcing a rethink of how we imagine education. Through dedicated 360 degree visually-immersive experiences, ideas are being created from paper to life.

According to Statistica, the market value of VR is expected to reach £354.3 million in 2020, showing its rising popularity in the years ahead. Unlike the gaming and healthcare markets, the education sector has been far slower in adopting VR. Limited budgets and a lack of time are often cited as the main barriers in delivering the best possible experiences for students, yet VR offers the opportunity to reimagine possibilities not seen in the past 20 years.

To better understand the opportunities of VR within education, Lenovo conducted a study asking 500 primary and secondary school teachers about their views on VR and how it can be introduced into curriculums. It produced a number of thought-provoking findings.

Incorporating VR within the classroom is widely supported from teachers across the UK, with almost all (94 per cent) believing that it would benefit the classroom. Nearly half (42 per cent) predict that it will become commonplace in the next five years.

Currently, as VR is still a relatively new technology, adoption is still very much in its infancy. Only 23 per cent of teachers have used VR in the classroom, but of those that have used it almost all (97 per cent) found that it made for more engaged students. As the technology evolves, VR headsets will become more popular across the education system, as both teachers and students alike begin tapping into the benefits of VR.

One of the largest challenges in education that VR technology is helping tackle is making things in the world real and relatable, helping them better visualise topics such as science and geography. With limited budgets (71 per cent) and time (42 per cent) being persistent obstacles in offering these experiences, two-thirds of teachers believe VR is helping visualise things faster than previously possible. This works hand-in-hand with the visually immersive experiences students are used to in their day-to-day lives, further enforcing the natural progression of the technology within education.

“Limited budgets and a lack of time are often cited as the main barriers in delivering the best possible experiences for students, yet VR offers the opportunity to reimagine possibilities not seen in the past 20 years.”

Teachers said that taking students to explore new worlds through VR technology would be one of the biggest pulls of the tech. Some of the key areas to explore included climbing to the top of Everest (67 per cent), seeing moments in history like the D-Day Beaches in WW2 (66 per cent), or exploring wildlife and the natural world, such as watching a volcano erupt (65 per cent).

VR technology is also becoming a real driving force in inspiring the next generation of technologists. Three in four teachers (74 per cent) stated that there will be a positive effect on the design and creativity skills of students, with over half (57 per cent) claiming that VR can actually help build aspirations for students regarding the types of jobs they want to do.

Students who are already engrossed with technology in their everyday lives are able to develop their own VR experiences through coding, helping create career opportunities for themselves in the future. Introducing VR in education and wider acknowledgement in the curriculum are the right steps forward to address this skills gap.

VR has the potential to create an endless stream of opportunities within education that will only drive more engaged students and learning experiences. The wider support of VR within education will help mirror students’ everyday usage of technology, and is also a blended learning experience that will not only better their understanding of the world, but also cultivate a new generation of technologists.

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