The world of work and education is changing at a rapid rate. Since the global pandemic we witnessed shifts in how we learn the skills needed for work. Undoubtedly this crisis has begun to re-shape our society and education while accelerating advancement, and innovation in the digital arena. At the same time, this defining moment has been a driving force behind these changes. It has widened the gap in skills needed for education and employment. Nevertheless it is imperative that we move fast, to build an education system that is ready for this, “technological disruption”. Especially to be innovative in our design of our inclusive VR products to prepare young people to play a part in the future workforce and to be active members in this new “economy and society.”. Our idea of education and the skills needed for work will be fundamentally different in the future.
“Education is the key tool to manage the challenges ahead. The economies of the future will be knowledge driven. That’s why we must use education to help people ride this wave of change and give them the skills they need for the new jobs of the 21st century.”
Michael E. Hansen, Chief Executive Officer, Cengage Learning
Why has education changed so rapidly?
A major transformation in teaching and learning happened during the global pandemic when students and teachers alike had to move their education online. Evidently this sudden shift in delivery of learning, opened gaps in accessibility and inclusivity and created barriers to learning that we had not experienced before. Hence this accelerated digital transformation in the education sector has seen two trends emerge, “the expansion of distance education and the increasing innovations in educational technologies.”. As a result, in FE and HE provision this type of delivery has remained. Resulting in, hybrid education and e-Learning becoming a part of the delivery plan; these barriers in learning are growing.
Some current issues with e-learning:
- Online student feedback is limited.
- E-Learning can cause social Isolation.
- E-Learning requires strong self-motivation and time management skills.
- Lack of soft skill development in online students.
- Online instructors tend to focus on theory rather than practice.
- E-Learning lacks face-to-face communication.
- Lack of accreditation & quality assurance in online education.
How is The VR Hive improving online education?
Anne Widdop, CEO of The VR Hive recognised these issues and wanted to make an innovative difference to this new challenge in education. Basically the company’s current immersive training uses XR and methods, tools, and techniques from serious games to train students in soft skills. Such as teamwork, problem solving, communication, emotional intelligence, leadership, and collaboration. Equally, The VR Hive is in the process of developing inclusive VR products that can be accessed from an app on mobile devices. As well as, a meta-platform is being developed to be plugged into schools, colleges and universities learning management systems (LMS). Specifically, these provisions offer XR training mapped to employability learning outcomes through meta-skills. To list a few; complex problem-solving, critical thinking, communication, creativity, and leadership.
Skills Development Scotland state that; “they are the skills we will all need to drive innovation, create adaptive resilience, encourage entrepreneurial behaviour and ensure our future success.”
The VR Hive aids learners through an experiential environment, to through gamification and immersive experiences. Consequently, a learner can obtain skills they would struggle to practice in the real world, with formative feedback that aids understanding and progression. As a matter of fact, we have developed inclusive VR products that are accessible for wider audiences while being inclusive and safe “Learning and skills provision in Scotland in 2035 will need to develop, measure and reward meta-skills, acknowledging that these can only be developed experientially.”
“Experiential learning is at the core of The VR Hive’s XR experiences, as is safeguarding, data protection, inclusivity, and accessibility. We are breaking down the barriers to young people accessing quality online educational provision.”
Anne Widdop, CEO The VR Hive.
Developing inclusive VR products that are safe & accessible
Safeguarding and data protection in our products
Safeguarding and data protection for children are vitally important issues. To this end, we work with expert advisors in this area. As such we are collaborating with companies that play a pivotal role in this sector. To list a few; The Data for Children Collaborative which is a joint partnership between UNICEF, The Scottish Government and the University of Edinburgh’s Data Driven Innovation Programme. Their goal in essence, is:
- To solve problems using data and responsible innovative data practices.
- To better understand how Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems can be developed.
- To safeguard children and protect their data.
Accessibility in our products
The VR Hive develops products that work with low bandwidth (or non-access to broadband). Therefore we are working on creative ways to ensure that even people with limited internet access to education can access VR Hive products. To explain, this can be achieved through downloading the content to their devices or using contemporary cloud computing techniques. Additionally, we constantly strive to ensure that accessibility and network fairness is achievable for all our learners.
Inclusivity in our products
The VR Hive has recently been selected for the Open Inclusion, InGAME and StoryFutures Academy as a part of their Inclusive Design for Immersive Experiences Challenge. Ultimately, we won a place on their programme to help companies create more inclusive XR experiences. By comparison InGame chose five companies from Scotland to develop Inclusive Design for Immersive Experiences. Subsequently, through this partnership our organisation aims to develop Inclusive design in their existing content, apply inclusive design to immersive innovation, and gather inclusive research and development expertise.
“It is important to The VR Hive that our products are designed responsibly, respecting the rights of all users, including children, and that there is transparency around the use of personal data. The company strives to ensure that all The VR Hive products have a positive impact on users’ lives.”
Anne Widdop, CEO, The VR Hive
What have we done so far to make these changes a reality?
The VR Hive has a great track record and has worked closely with schools, colleges, universities, and companies to create immersive learning for smartphones, tablets, desktops, and head mounted displays. As a matter of fact, all projects delivered throughout the last 12 months have successfully met or exceeded the requirements. The VR Hive has developed a;
- 360 Immersive VR tour for Screen Alliance Wales. This is a bi-lingual educational studio tour of Wolf Studios in Cardiff for use in schools.
- 3D VR Manager Coaching for Suntory Seicho/Edinburgh University.
- VR Nurse Training for The University of West of Scotland.
- Mobile App with content aimed at learners in Health and Social Care: Working with The University of Highlands and Islands and Lakes College.
- Fully immersive VR 3 player game for Oculus Quest, based on employability skills.
Supporting our development, we partnered with
AWS and Nvidia
The VR Hive has been chosen as partners with Nvidia via their Inception Program and AWS via their Kick-start Programme. In similar fashion, both companies provide the team with a wealth of on-demand expertise and support The VR Hive products by ensuring the team have access to:
- World-class games design and development.
- Technical expertise training.
- Optimised, scalable, infrastructure.
Knowledge Transfer Programme
The VR Hive has partnered with the University of the West Scotland’s Immersive Lab (via the KTP funded by Innovate UK). While currently building a ‘metaverse’ cloud-based platform to host learning content and use the latest cyber security tools and processes to protect data.
The VR Hive is breaking down barriers to learning and building new worlds.
A place where everyone can access high quality education that has been designed to prepare young people for the workforce of the future.
- The World Economic Form: Global Future Council on the New Agenda for Education and Skills
- Skills Development Scotland. A Human Future Strategic Plan 2019–2022
- Open Inclusion: Creating a more open world – Open Inclusion
- StoryFutures Academy: Academy – StoryFutures