The Virtual Reality Innovation in Education

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Invited Guest Editor Column

by Jaime Carter MSN, RN, Guest Editor


Carter, J. (2012). Guest Editor. The Virtual Reality Innovation in Education. Online Journal of Nursing Informatics (OJNI), 16 (3), Available at  http://ojni.org/issues/?p=1999


As educational needs are constantly changing, so are the demands of the academic setting which includes the environments of teaching and learning.  Because increases in technology have blossomed over the last several decades, the delivery mode of education has evolved to include a new domain of virtual education.  I will explore the what, why and how questions that arise when one considers this new innovated domain in education.

What is the virtual environment?  A virtual environment can be described as an on-line community that takes the form of a computer based simulated environment.  With the use of this computer simulated environment, the student can interact with their instructor as well as with other students.  The virtual environment encompasses several different domains.  Over the past couple of decades, the growth of technology which incorporates the use of the World Wide Web has been utilized in every aspect of a nurse’s life (Johnson, 2005).  The growth of technology can be seen in every aspect of a person’s daily life from banking, to grocery shopping, to paying bills on-line, and to charting and storing documents in cyberspace.  The Internet is at everyone’s fingertips from their smartphone, tablets, to their personal computers.  The virtual environment in education can consist of but is not limited to:  on-line classes, hybrid classes in which a portion of the class is provided on-line, to webcasting and/or the use of simulations.

Why has the use of virtual environments been embedded into the academic setting?  Many colleges and universities have started to use on-line courses and programs due to decreases in classroom sizes and the constant steady decline in enrollment (Barrett, 2010).  By providing more on-line classes, students are able to save money in travel and on-line classes allow students to work on a schedule that is conducive for them.  This increase in flexibility supports increased enrollments. Online learning has advantages of increasing student enrollment, creating an environment with a collection of diversified perspectives, as well as increasing instructor exposure to bigger and more challenging learning domains (Barrett, 2010).  Web based courses have shown favoritism by students due to the convenience of time and place (Ostrow &  DiMaria-Ghalili, 2005).  It is easy to see how economics played an influential role in the integration of the virtual environment.

How is virtual teaching and learning integrated into the curriculum in the academic setting?  The on-line learning environment allows flexibility for the student’s own learning style and it makes the student take charge of their own learning.  The responsibility that is bestowed upon the student can be seen as empowering for some and intimidating by others (Johnson, 2005).  The students become active, independent learners by displaying ownership of their learning process.  Most importantly the virtual environment has to be endorsed by faculty.  Educators must learn new teaching methodologies and embrace this new innovative change.  The change shifts from content delivery to the development and molding of critical thinking.  Critical thinking, which is an essential component of nursing education, can be enhanced by integrating a highly interactive learning environment within the virtual environment that extends beyond the classroom (Lashley, 2005).  The virtual educator has to develop ways that will help guide and foster the learning process for the virtual environment (Barrett, 2010).   The curriculum in the virtual environment needs to contain interesting, challenging and authentic content for success. It is pivotal that it remains challenging to the students (Lok et al, 2005).  The virtual environment must contain time for reflection and feedback for it to promote success for both the educator and the student.

The advances in technology have opened a new educational era.  These advances have made it possible for colleges and universities to branch out and reach populations that might not have considered advancing their education.  Due to economic factors, one can utilize the virtual environment to help increase enrollment in academic settings.  Technology is constantly improving and evolving, and educators are there to meet this new demand.  Virtual environments have allowed for great innovative changes in the domains of teaching and learning.  Contemporary teachers are embracing the concept of active learning by shifting their modalities from information provider to information guider.  This allows the student to become active in their own learning process and renders the learner an independent active participant in their own educational endeavor.


Barrett, B. (2010).  Virtual teaching and strategies: Transitioning from teaching traditional classes to online classes.  Contemporary Issues in Education Research, 3(12), 17-20.

Johnson, C. (2005).  Lessons learned from teaching web-based courses:  The 7-year itch. Nursing Forum, 40(1), 11-17.

Lashley, M. (2005).  Teaching health assessment in the virtual classroom.  Journal of Nursing Education, 44(8), 348-350.

Lok, B., Ferdig, R., Raij, A., Johnsen, K., Dickerson, R., Coutts, J.,… Lind, S. (2006).  Applying virtual reality in medical communication education:  Current findings and potential teaching and learning benefits of immersive virtual patients. Virtual Reality, 10(3), 185-195.  Doi: 10.1007/s10055-006-0037-3

Ostrow, L., & DiMaria-Ghalili, R. A. (2005). Distance education for graduate nursing: One state school’s experience. The Journal of Nursing Education, 44(1), 5–10.


About the author

Jaime Carter MSN, RN

Jaime is an Associate Professor of nursing at South Georgia College in Douglas, Georgia.

For more information contact Jaime Carter at jaime.carter@sgc.edu

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