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Transforming pre-service teacher education with VR and Learning Analytics

Virtual reality (VR) classrooms are immersive classroom learning environments which offer an interactive and dynamic platform for microteaching. The joint research project of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for Advanced Leaming Technologies in Science Technology, Engineering, Arts & Maths (CALTSTEAM) and the Swiss Distance University of Applied Sciences on Learning Analytics for Virtual Reality (LAViR) focuses on the development of a VR classroom application to improve the microteaching practices of pre-service science teachers.

Funding and Objectives

This joint venture is funded by Unity Social Impact and Meta Immersive Learning and the LAViR application is set to transform pre-service teacher (PST) education in science by providing a platform for PSTs to practice their teaching using microlessons.

The VR classroom run combines the power of Learning Analytics (LA) and Virtual Reality (VR) to create a realistic and regulated training environment by simulating a real-world classroom with 3D models for the teaching of concepts in biology, chemistry, and physics. The application collects rich sources of various data collated in an LA dashboard and augments feedback which includes insights into students’ engagement, interaction, communication, and movement within the virtual environment.

A Spectator application “The Spectator” embedded in the VR classroom via cameras gives teacher educators an observational tool for monitoring and evaluating PSTs skills development. It plays a critical role in fostering reflective teaching practices after microteaching sessions where teacher educators and PSTs can re-watch and evaluate teacher and learner behavior in the VR classroom environment. Learning analytics further complement this process by leveraging data to assess teaching effectiveness, identify areas for improvement and personalize instruction based on individual learner needs.

Learning Analytics for Effective Teaching

The integration of VR and LA into microteaching practices holds immense potential to revolutionise teacher training. As we navigate the ever-evolving landscape of education, these technological transformations are poised to shape a new era of effective, data-informed microteaching practices that prepare teachers to meet the diverse and complex needs of 21st-century learners within the 4IR.

Professor Umesh Ramnarain, the Director of CALTSTEAM, says that “Novel interactive technologies such as Augmented Reality, Virtual Reality and generative AI show incredible potential for transforming the teaching practices of teachers in a manner that provides learners with experiences of phenomena that are inspiring, personalised and adaptive.”

Dr Mafor Penn, the senior lecturer at the CALTSTEAM, “XR-enhanced science education has provided a different perspective on what working smart means. In my experience, STEM skills can first be developed and perfected virtually through trial and error before an encounter with the real world. This has been done in chemistry, medicine, aviation, mining, engineering, etc., with great success. It is crucial, therefore, that people and organisations adopt XR technology in different spheres of life. The potential is enormous and widely applicable from classrooms to boardrooms.”

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