A Stanford University graduate student has taught a class of English language learners using a virtual reality classroom to help them learn about their own mental health, and the professor who has taught the course says he thinks the experience was “phenomenal.”
Stanford graduate student Daniel Soto told BuzzFeed News that he had been teaching a course for over a year at the online physics and math tutor site tutoring.
He told BuzzFeed he and his colleagues were inspired to make this kind of work after seeing other students who had used the same technology for a similar project, and wondered how it could be applied to teaching people with disabilities.
“We started to think about how this could be a good project for people with mental health,” he said.
Soto said he was able to show his students the material on the course in virtual reality while wearing a virtual version of a headset that lets them use their own body to move around the room.
The material has been used by other online tutors in different ways.
“We’ve used it to teach a group of high school students with autism to speak to one another, to have a conversation, to use a smartphone to make calls,” he told BuzzFeed.
“It’s a really cool way to use the technology to help people with disability.
And it’s also a great way to teach people who have disabilities a lot of fun.”
He said the experience taught the students about how they felt, and helped them to better understand themselves and others around them.
“They were very surprised and touched by it,” he added.
The student said he felt like he had taken a step forward in the history of online education.
“It was really exciting,” he explained.
“I had a lot more of a sense of how to teach and learn online, and this was a really powerful way to do that.”
The teacher who had taught the class for the students, Robert B. Hines, told BuzzFeed that he thought it was “a great idea to use virtual technology to give people with learning disabilities access to information that might otherwise be inaccessible.”
“When I first saw the idea, I was a little skeptical about it,” Hines said.
“The way I see it, virtual technology could actually help people who are not able to use it, or not able and do not want to use an app or a computer, to really understand their own minds and feelings.”
But, he added, “I really think this is a very exciting project.
I really think it will make a big difference for many people with a range of different disabilities, and I think it’s a great example of how we can be inclusive of people who might not be able to do the things that we can.””
I’m excited to see how people respond to it,” B.H. said.”
I feel like this is going to be a really great learning experience for me,” H. added.
“There’s so many things that could be done to help, in my opinion, the students who are struggling in learning how to do math and things like that.”
He also said he thought the experience showed that it was possible to teach through technology, and to provide a way for students to interact with their teacher in a different way than they might be able or willing to do with a traditional class.
“You don’t have to do it like that, where you have to be physically present,” he continued.
“You don, you can teach this without even being in the room.”
“It’s really exciting to see what they’re going to learn,” he concluded.
“And it’s definitely a good idea to have technology in schools, because it can help people to learn through technology.”
Follow Olivia Chow on Twitter: @oliviachow.