Using VR in Social Work Education

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Overview and Purpose

This mini-course will provide instructors with an introduction to immersive Virtual Reality (VR) and how to integrate it into their courses. The course begins by addressing the benefits of using VR in Social Work education. It then provides some introductory definitions of what VR is. We then explore how VR is currently being used in Social Work education and practice. Once this foundational knowledge is covered the course turns to learning the technical skills needed to effectively navigate immersive VR technologies. Portions of the course are designed specifically for instruction on the use of the Oculus Quest platform, but the learning strategies will be applicable to other VR devices. Once these skills are covered, we will consider how to effectively integrate VR into Social Work courses. This will include an overview of the specific affordances that VR offers to engage students and enhance learning outcomes. Instructors will evaluate how they might use VR in their courses and develop an implementation plan for effectively integrating VR into their courses. The course will conclude with strategies and resources for continued learning about VR and how the technology is evolving and being integrated into education.

Performance Objectives

Upon completion of this course participants will have the following knowledge and skills:

  • Identify the differences between AR, VR, and XR.
  • Understand how VR is currently being used in social work and related health professions.
  • Utilize their Oculus Quest headsets to access apps and navigate virtual environments.
  • Understand the affordances that VR offers for learning activities.
  • Develop learning activities for their courses that utilize best practices and the unique characteristics of VR.
  • Develop an action plan for continued learning about how VR is being implemented and how it might be applied to their curriculum.

Course Units

This mini-course includes the following units.

Unit 1: Introduction to VR

This unit will provide an introduction to immersive VR. We will start by considering why social work educators should consider using VR as a teaching tool. We will then cover some of the basic terminology that you will encounter when exploring VR technologies and discuss some of the different technologies that are used. We will then look at specific examples of how VR is being used in the field of social work and other related health professions. By the conclusion of this unit you will have a basic understanding of the differences between different Virtual Reality technologies and how it is currently being used in education.

Unit 2: VR Skills Development

This unit will focus upon developing the specific skills needed to effectively use VR technologies. In this unit you will develop a learning plan for your own skills development. We will then go through the built in tutorials that will help you get comfortable with using the Oculus Quest headset and its hand controllers. We will then discuss how to find apps that are available, which you can explore to become more confident in your use of the technology and to start consideration of how you might use them within your classes. By the close of this unit you should be comfortable with using your VR headset and have a basic understanding of the types of immersive VR apps that are currently available.

Unit 3: Educational Applications

In this section of the course we will examine how VR learning environments are rooted in situtated and experiential learning theories. Once these materials are covered we will then use a backwards design process to outline and plan your VR based learning activity. Through this process we will identify your topic, develop learning outcomes, how those outcomes will be assessed and then consider the situational factors for how your assignment will be integrated with your other course materials.

Unit 4: Continued Learning

This unit will focus upon your continued learning. We will start by reflecting upon what we have already learned and think about what areas you would like to know more about. We will then explore some of the resources that are available, including communities of practice, journals, electronic resources and conferences.

View the course: Using VR in Social Work Education