Why Use Virtual Tours & Virtual Reality in Public Libraries?
The main reasons why more and more librarians are integrating virtual tours (VT) and virtual reality (VR) into their public libraries is to enhance learning and engagement for adults and seniors. VT & VR are transforming the way content is delivered by immersing library members in what they’re learning — real or imagined — and by allowing them to interact with it. Being immersed in what you’re learning is not only motivating, but it requires less cognitive load to process the information.
There are a number of factors that position VT & VR as powerful engagement tools and learning environments for public library members. We’ve outlined a few below…
Add Context to Learning
When library members immerse themselves in a virtual environment, they are transported to a place which provides another layer of context to the learning experience. With VT & VR, library members are no longer limited to reading or watching a video about a topic. Instead, thanks to the feeling of presence that VR provides, library members are now learning about topics by experiencing them. Even though VT & VR experiences aren’t real, the mind believes it’s in a new place which engages the mind in ways can be very profound for learners.
Provoke and Sustain Inquiry
When library members are transported to new learning environments to explore topics and content, what they see and experience inevitably lead to questions and potential inquiries. The quality and complexity of the VT and/or VR experience may also create opportunities for library members to pursue inquiries of their own. We call this lifelong learning…
Learn by Doing
VT & VR by nature are interactive experiences – engaging library members as designers of their own learning. VT & VR can provide a solid anchor for new learning and connect to a meaningful array of multimedia resources that library members can engage with in their own way and at their pace.
Connect Emotionally to Learning
Emotional reactions to what we experience are fundamental to learning and forming memories. Virtual environments are designed to be visually engaging and stimulating which activates the brain. According to Martha Burns (2012) dopamine is released in the brain when we are rewarded. And learning about new things is often very rewarding. As dopamine levels increase in the brain those higher levels help that new information stick. According to Jensen (2013), norepinephrine affects many areas of the brain, such as the amygdala, which can influence where we direct attention. /…/ [The] one thing that can encourage its release is movement. When norepinephrine is released, less distraction and focus occur. So as library members engage with the content in VR environments, they are stimulating their brains in ways that support retention of new information and experiences.
VT & VR is a powerful personalization tool for learners at any age. Not only are library members able to choose the environments they wish to explore, but they have opportunities to self-direct the pace of learning and how they engage with the content. Librarians can further optimize virtual experiences for their members by selecting collections of tours that differentiate content in ways that align with their members’ strengths, needs, skills and interests.
According to the Social Science Research Network, 65 percent of us are visual learners.
VT & VR experiences help everyone visualize the content and concepts they are learning making it easier to comprehend. VR is especially helpful when library members want to visualize complex structures, systems or mechanisms (e.g. mechanical systems, body systems, optical systems, mass transit systems, Aboriginal clan systems, health care systems).
VR is useful not only for content consumption, but it’s also great for content creation. Tools such as the VR Tilt Brush can transport library members to new levels of creativity like they’ve never experienced before.
Library members who avoid taking risks often don’t feel safe or comfortable enough to do so. While there are many factors that often contribute to those feelings, VR can provide your library members with an immersive personalized learning environment where they can explore new content on their own. These kinds of individualized experiences can have significant therapeutic outcomes for library members who experience anxiety in various situations.
Scale Learning Experiences
When it comes to scaling certain learning experiences for library members, sometimes barriers like cost and distance are prohibitive. VT & VR give librarians the power to expose their members to experiences they might not otherwise have in life – like trips to manufacturing plants, botanical gardens, and museums, or access to full technology labs where they can experiment and explore. VT & VR makes scaling unique educational experiences possible.
Explore New Technology
The desire for VR to be designed for educational purposes outweighs gaming 63.9 percent vs. 61 percent. While VR has been historically dedicated to gaming, the market is shifting and more educational VR content is being made available. At Digital Human Library, we have curated the best on the web with over 1000 educational virtual tours in 14 different categories for public libraries.
Evaluate a Virtual Tour
After participating in a virtual tour, why not evaluate it? Working through the process of evaluating a tour helps library members think about what’s important to them as users of that technology. Evaluating tours will also help prepare library members with the perspective they need if they are choose to create their own virtual tours.