The question we start with within this article is this: can virtual reality be a support for distance learning? This is a very topical issue in these times of emergency that we are experiencing. Each one of us has had to reinvent ourselves, has had to reorganize our spaces, our time, and our habits to continue carrying out the activities of our lives (home, work, school). In this sense, technology has certainly provided us with fundamental support, which will continue to be part of our lives to an increasing extent. The term didactics refers to the ‘science that defines the methods and techniques for teaching’ (Encyclopaedia Treccani). The result of this is learning. So, in other words, one could say that didactics is the means, the instrument that favors the acquisition of new knowledge and leads to changes in behavior and thinking. Teaching methods have undergone a profound evolution over the years, during which many scholars have devised new paths and ways of transmitting increasingly avant-garde knowledge, right up to the use of innovative technologies, which in some respects are still being tested today. 

A field that is becoming increasingly popular in this field is virtual reality. Specifically, I would like to focus on distance learning, which has become almost a necessity in this historical period. It all started with the lockdown when schools had to reorganize their teaching methods using innovative communication platforms, asking teachers and students to spend many hours in front of a computer. This made all these children and young people miss their classmates, teachers, games, and practical work where contact is essential. The phrase we have often heard is this: ‘teaching through a screen is not the same as teaching face-to-face’.  How can we argue with this statement?! One certain thing is that no technology that exists today can replace one of the main characteristics of human beings: human contact and warmth. But now I would like to ask you, has the experience of distance learning been so negative, or has it opened the horizons towards a not-so-distant future? In my humble opinion, everything has its pros and cons. We have already dealt with the biggest cons of VR in teaching, but at the same time, several pros are worth highlighting. The first one, more generally, is that it allows creating an alternative to traditional teaching methods, especially if the latter are impossible to implement. Moreover, virtual reality allows teachers and lecturers to feel present within the created three-dimensional space, making the lesson much more interactive. Today, there are many examples of distance learning using this technology, such as the H-International Schools, where lessons are structured using special VR programs in which teachers and students have more opportunities for interaction. For example, if you are studying the milky way or the movements of the planets, the student will be virtually immersed in that space and consequently more involved, with the possibility of learning not only with words but also with sight and the VR experience. So pupils through the use of virtual reality are not just passive subjects listening to the lesson but become active subjects learning in an engaging and participatory way. Other examples where virtual reality can and is becoming a fundamental medium for distance learning are art and history: not long ago, so-called “viewing rooms” were created, i.e. virtual art galleries accessible from the web, rich in images and videos with the works of the galleries shown in detail. In addition, more and more museums are offering real virtual tours, in which the various rooms are reproduced with absolute fidelity by special 360° cameras. In these tours, the person can move around as if he or she were really inside the museum, pause in front of the works and zoom in in high resolution to view the details of the works. In addition, there are numerous platforms for virtual worlds suitable for the development of online educational activities: each of them allows people to “really feel” inside three-dimensional spaces, with the help of an avatar, customizable both in shape and in expressions and movements. 

These and many others are only examples that exist today and will increasingly be implemented in conjunction with rapid technological development. Vrainers is trying to move in this direction, developing projects ranging from tourism to learning. In the latter field, training guided by a human-like avatar has been developed, in which the individual is immersed in a virtual pathway through which he or she can optimize his or her skills. A training that encourages dynamic and engaging learning, under the supervision of psychologists and experts in Virtual Reality and Artificial Intelligence. In conclusion, we can therefore say that technology, and in particular, VR can create new effective teaching methods that can be integrated with traditional teaching methods. As Edward Teller used to say: ‘today’s science is tomorrow’s technology. 


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Francesco Palazzo

Degree in psychological sciences and techniques from the University of L’Aquila. Master’s degree in Psychology of Well-being: empowerment, rehabilitation, and positive technologies, at the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Milan. Master’s degree in Sport Psychology. Specialized in the use of Positive Technologies applied to different psychological fields, conducting an experimental study on cognitive enhancement and technical-motor gestures on young competitive tennis players through an integrated training of mental training and virtual reality.



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