If you haven’t dipped your toe into the world of augmented reality (AR) or virtual reality (VR), you and your students are missing out! AR and VR experiences can support and enhance learning in all subject areas by engaging the senses and immersing students in “real” experiences far beyond the four walls of the classroom.
And although there are some big changes in the AR education market with the discontinuation of Google’s popular AR tools, new players are emerging and AR and VR promise to be engaging ways to immerse students in content for many years to come.
Google recently announced its decision to end support for its Expeditions and DayDream virtual reality (VR) apps, which offer educational VR tours. These applications will be removed from iOS and Android app stores on June 30, 2021. Google says Expeditions will be incorporated into the larger Arts & Culture app, letting users view them via web or mobile device.
Google is also discontinuing support for its Tour Creator feature, which allows people to create their own tours in Expeditions. Tour Creator will no longer be available after June 30, 2021. However, Google will permit users to export the assets from their existing tours in the coming months.
Many educators are concerned that they will lose the tours and other content they’ve created over the years. If you are one of these educators, have no fear! New content providers are here: ExpeditionsPro and VR Expeditions 2.0.
ExpeditionsPro was founded in the UK by Simon Fretwell, who has been working in the educational VR space for five years. ExpeditionsPro allows cross platform use, which means users can save all their content from Google Expeditions. ExpeditionsPro includes numerous benefits:
Content creation and sharing: Not just another 360-degree library subscription, users can create, upload, edit and share content within the ExpeditionPro’s global community to provide a wide selection of content that is continuously evolving. What's more, users can import their existing Google Tour Creator content from Poly with its simple import tool. In addition, a huge library of pre-made VR Expeditions and lesson plans is available so educators can jump right in and get started.
Special content: The paid version offers special-content library packs from sites such as MEL Science. MEL Science is predominantly geared toward middle and high school content. This content offers students a deeper dive inside substances and allows them to travel within crystal lattices, build molecules and explore bonds. Making the experience like no other and offering much deeper student engagement and understanding.
Remote learning and teaching: Because this program is web-based, it’s great for in-person and virtual students. The Q&A is set so that it can be an assessment tool or a class discussion starter. You can record students' scores within the platform without additional steps to assigning lessons or recording grades. This platform was designed with educators needs in mind.
Built-in Unity: Building the software in Unity means ExpeditionsPro can launch on multiple devices from a mobile phone to a dedicated VR headset, which means you can use existing kits and will not need new equipment.
VR Expeditions 2.0
VR Expeditions 2.0 was created by RobotLAB, the largest global provider of VR kits for education using Google Expeditions. RobotLAB VR Expeditions 2.0 is inspired by the AR work Google did, and this product was designed based on feedback from hundreds of educators. Here are some of the features of VR Expeditions 2.0:
Curated content: Thanks to a partnership with Encyclopaedia Britannica, VR Expeditions offers high-quality, curated and tailored content, along with student hand-outs and additional teacher resources that make educators' lives easier (see example HERE). Rather than simply having an image and going on a virtual field trip, students will be able to dive into and truly understand and research the content using these ready-made, data-rich resources. Teachers don't have to come up with a lesson to go along with the virtual images; it has already been done for them. This makes for a true educational lesson rather than just another tool that you can add.
High-quality visuals: All the 360-degrees photos and videos are high definition, 4K resolution, instead of still images that can give students headaches because of their low quality. The quality of the experience will also depend on the quality of your viewing equipment.
Off-line access: Teachers can create playlists and save expeditions for off-line learning, without any need for internet access. Teachers can also track the progress of students.
VR Expeditions 2.0 does not have a free version, but offers different packages for schools. They are also backward compatible, meaning that they will work with most existing hardware. They offer free consultations to confirm equipment compatibility prior to purchase.
Both of these new platforms are offered by companies with a long history in the educational VR space. The platforms are open source and will work with most existing devices. If your equipment was compatible with Google Expeditions, it should also work with VR Expeditions 2.0 or ExpecitionsPro.
If you are an educator looking to rescue your Google Expeditions before it closes down in June 2021, visit Google Takeout and export all your tours. Don't wait for Google VR to phase out.
Alicia Verweij is an educator who is passionate about teaching children to think critically, problem solve, and function in an ever-changing digital world so that they will be prepared for future careers. She’s been teaching for more than 12 years and currently works as an educational consultant with EDGEucating LLC.