Using Virtual Reality in Higher Education

Published by Caroline Carlin on

Author: Laura Ridings, eLearning Developer, Centre for Collaborative Learning, University of Central Lancashire

What is Virtual Reality? 

You will have heard people talk about virtual reality (VR) but you may not know what it is or how it is used in learning and education.

VR refers to interactive content (images or videos) which enables the user to explore a simulated environment that can be explored in an entire 360 degrees of a scene.

VR can benefit education by allowing students to participate in memorable and engaging experiences that they would not otherwise be able to have. Furthermore, it can all happen in the comfort of a classroom. Students can be engaged and inspired powerfully through virtual experiences such as simulation, environment immersion and gaming exercises. With the opening of the CCL Immersive Learning Lab we are keen to promote ourselves across the university to provide support with developing and implementing both Virtual and Augmented Reality using the Oculus Quest and Microsoft Hololens respectively. This post is focussing on Virtual Reality, next week you will be able to read about Augmented Reality.

The following are examples of good use of Virtual Reality in Higher Education in the hope that they will provide a starting point for inspiration for adding VR elements into your teaching.

University of Westminster 

The University of Westminster has already implemented a virtual space for criminal law students. By using VR, students search for clues to create and build a solid murder case. Instead of simply reading through witness statements they can walk around the crime scene and ascertain, for example, whether a witness would have actually been able to see the crime. This gives the student an unparalleled experience in a very practical topic, that could otherwise be hard to demonstrate. (Thompson, Sophie “VR in Higher Education” VirtualSpeech, updated 5 February 2020

Cardiff University 

A world-leading brain research imaging centre is offering A-level students a virtual MRI scan as part of a new Cardiff University initiative for schools. 

The CUBRIC (Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre) VR scan takes pupils through different stages of the scanning process, which is used to provide detailed images of the inside of a body. The scan, which can take place anywhere using the VR headset provided, is part of a new ‘Brain Box’ activity kit for A-level psychology and biology students, funded by a Wellcome Trust public engagement grant. 

(“Virtual MRI scan for pupils” Cardiff University, 21 October 2019

University of Central Lancashire 

This is a work in progress and will be evolving into a more immersive application. The original concept is a 360° virtual tour of the Alston Observatory, it is a way of bringing the Observatory to parents and prospective students on Open Day and in future sessions will allow students to interact with examples of work they will be studying. This simple development has allowed the university to show off it’s excellent facilities to be able to compete with other institutions. It was the first project taken on by our very own Immersive Learning Lab which is fronted by Laura Ridings and Laura Ward

The Immersive Learning Lab is based in the Library, if you would like to find out more then you can email them at   


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