The many benefits of the integration of virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) have been well documented, particularly in the use for postsecondary education in health, engineering, and science courses. These alternative ways of doing and learning create experiential opportunities that have previously been impossible, infeasible, or too dangerous for postsecondary students, and as these systems become more cost effective and widespread, there is a potential that VR/AR can augment our students learning experiences. If you are feeling curious about integrating these alternative forms of learning and teaching into your classroom, and about how you could change some of your previously lecture- or paper-based learning with these new technologies, you are not alone. However, while you consider the options, please take some time to consider the following points.

Considerations for Virtual Reality (VR)

The Usefulness of VR in Meeting Learning Outcomes

Despite the belief that VR/AR are the new ways to make our learning more experiential for our students, it has been found that they can often lack usefulness as a means of reaching our learning objectives (Kavanagh et al., 2017). Although many choose to use VR as a means of increasing student engagement, it has been found that just as many found that it did not increase student’s engagement beyond the initial novelty of the activity (Kavanagh et al., 2017). Also, a lack of realism has also been reported, so although possibly useful for an introduction to a subject, VR/AR will likely not be able to replace a real-life situation or lab setting.

The Complexity of VR Programming

Before diving into the world of VR/AR in your teaching spaces, it is important to understand that although these may seem like easy-to-use machines (all the kids are doing it right?), using them for educational purposes can be a lot more complicated. Creating a VR/AR program to meet your needs can require the ability to understanding coding and programming of specialized software. It has been found that without ongoing tech support, the use of VR in the classroom is not possible (Appel et al., 2021). In addition, gesture recognition software, although always improving, comes with limitations, and has been found to be counter-intuitive and can end up distracting from the learning that is meant to be experienced.

Therefore, although these may not be reasons not to consider using VR/AR in your classroom, it is important to note that there will need to be time built into your schedule for you to become comfortable with the devices/software and then for you to be able to teach these to your students. Without full understanding of the devices, time can often be wasted figuring out the machines as opposed to the desired experiential learning.

VR and Students with Disabilities

Although many consider VR/AR as a means of reducing barriers and increasing access to educational opportunities, there are some considerations that need to be made when thinking about their use with students with disabilities.


Ableism is the assumption that anyone who is disabled is somehow ‘less than’, and includes stereotypes, generalizations, discrimination, and exclusion.  When considering that VR is a technology that is often used to assume a standard or ideal, it means that what it demonstrates is a non-disabled body in a not accessible environment.  Just as our physical spaces are often not designed for marginalized bodies, often the virtual spaces are not either (Spiel & Gerling, 2022). Therefore, it can be considered an ableist technology (Gerling & Spiel, 2021).  There is also the problematic idea that VR can ‘correct’ or address some of the ‘deficits’ of those with disabilities by making the impossible possible, but we need to remember that this is again ableist and that those with disabilities do not need correction, and instead we should be modifying the environment itself to support their needs. In addition, it is important to note that the equipment needed for VR/AR are also often designed for those with a majority body (average body type) and not for those with a minority body, and thus the equipment may fit poorly or be completely unusable for some who vary in size, proportions, or physical abilities.


Those with disabilities related to vision may experience difficulties using this software. Those who are blind have no way to use these, and those with low vision may not be able to zoom in on items in a manner that they need. Currently options for transcripts or described video are very limited.

Sensory and Neurodivergence

Those with sensory sensitivities that rely on auditory or visual cues may find the use of VR/AR difficult as it is often challenging to filter out the distractions and focus on the cues that they require for learning. Also, just as some students with disabilities struggled with masks during COVID due to facial sensory issues, there will be those who struggle with wearing the required equipment or headsets.

Hearing and Auditory Processing

Those who are fluent in American Sign Language or require closed captioning for videos will struggle to use VR/AR which are often not compatible with these accessibility features.


Students have found that the gestures needed to run VR can often feel counter-intuitive and challenging to get used to (Kavanagh et al., 2017). When considering students with gross motor or fine motor disabilities, the ability to manipulate the required equipment can cause greater challenges. The use of dexterity and fine motor hand-eye coordination can be a challenge that is not possible to overcome. Often the controllers of these systems require button pushing and gesture-based input (Gerling & Spiel, 2021), which may be difficult for many students to manipulate. In addition, consider a student who has gross motor disabilities, or disabilities that create physical pain. Wearing this equipment may be restrictive or considered heavy and uncomfortable to wear. Also, for those with some physical disabilities, or  for those who require assistive devices (for example a cane), using equipment that requires two hands may not be possible. 

Social Anxiety

Students who are introverted or with autism are often thought of as targets for VR as it can make socialization and communication easier (Hutson, 2022). Although many studies have described the benefits, we must also remember that VR does not replace real social interactions and peer-to-peer learning. Also, we need to be mindful of ableism and that these students do not need to be treated for their “conditions” but instead we should be designing alternative assessments that allow for students to engage with their assignments and demonstrate their learning in ways that work best for them.

Motion Sickness

It is important to remember that there are numerous studies that demonstrate that VR is often related to issues of motion sickness, which can present as nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and cold sweats. It has also been found by studies that women are more affected physiologically by VR then men (Chattha et al., 2020; Munafo et al., 2017).

Note Taking

Another consideration is how your VR/AR is being used for learning. This is a great tool for solidifying learning that you have already taught to your students, but consideration needs to be given before replacing teaching with VR. Students often help to increase their learning through note-taking, whether that be handwritten or typed. Using VR/AR often hinders the ability to take notes, and thus if learning is taking place alternative methods to note-taking should be considered.

Considering the above words of caution regarding VR/AR, here is a suggested checklist to consider before you implement these fun and exciting opportunities into your learning spaces.

  • The use of VR/AR is not replacing other learning, but instead built in to enhance learning and experience for your students. Also, to increase the impact of the learning, explain the value that you see in using this for learning to your students.
  • The activity should always be considered optional and there are other options for students to meet the learning outcomes if VR/AR is not appropriate to their needs.
  • Time is built in for growing comfort with the technology before measuring learning.
  • Opportunities for peer-to-peer interaction and collaboration are still being created within the classroom and learning spaces.
  • If replacing lectures or learning content with VR/AR, ensure that written notes and slides are still made available to communicate desired knowledge and learning outcomes.
  • The value of the assignment is worthy of the time that students will put in given that they have learning of the software and equipment to do as well as the learning that is required for the course.

Summary/Key Takeaways

Virtual reality offers experiential learning but may not always align with the learning objectives of a course or engage students effectively. Its implementation requires an understanding of programing and a consideration for tech support. Before implementing VR into your classroom, be aware of ableism and the challenges that VR can create related to vision, sensory issues, mobility, and anxiety. Additional concerns include motion sickness and limitations to note-taking. Using the checklist provided may assist you in determining if VR is right for your classroom.



Appel, L., Peisachovich, E., & Sinclair, D. (2021). Curriculum program: Benefits and challenges of embedding virtual reality as an educational medium in undergraduate curricula. International Journal for Innovation Education and Research, 9(3), 219-236.

Chattha, U. A., Janjua, U. I., Anwar, F., Madni, T. M., Cheema, M. F., & Janjua, S. I. (2020). Motion Sickness in Virtual Reality: An Empirical Evaluation. IEEE Access, 8, 130486–130499.

Gerling, K., & Spiel, K. (2021). A Critical Examination of Virtual Reality Technology in the Context of the Minority Body. Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 1–14.

Hutson, J. (2022). Social virtual reality: Neurodivergence and Inclusivity in the metaverse. Societies, 12(4), 102-109.

Kavanagh, S., Luxton-Reilly, A., Wuensche, B. & Plimmer, B. (2017). A systematic review of Virtual Reality in education. Themes in Science and Technology Education, 10(2), 85-119.

Munafo, J., Diedrick, M., & Stoffregen, T. A. (2017). The virtual reality head-mounted display Oculus Rift induces motion sickness and is sexist in its effects. Experimental Brain Research, 235(3), 889–901.

Spiel, K., & Gerling, K. (2022). Virtual bodies. The Architectural Review, 03(1488), 24-26.

Is this page useful?

Back to Top