When we visit Brookhouse School's Runda campus, students are diving deep into the ocean to explore the marine ecosystem. Every time they come across a fish species they've only seen in textbooks and videos, their faces light up with excitement and a "wow" is heard every now and then.
On this tour made possible through the use of virtual reality (VR) headsets, the students can hear the sounds of the ocean and almost touch the fish, making the tour a stimulating experience.
Brookhouse School is the latest entrant into a race of educational centres that are seeking to revolutionise students’ learning experiences in the country by tapping immersive technologies.
It launched its virtual reality and metaverse-based learning models at its Runda campus last week as part of a pilot programme that Brookhouse parent firm, Inspired Education Group is running in the 13 institutes it operates across Africa.
In June this year, Mcedo Beijing School in Nairobi’s Mathare received a donation of its VR headsets from Ukwenza VR, a social enterprise that focuses on creating educational virtual reality content.
At Mcedo Beijing, the VR content is tailored to teach students about environmental conservation and some of the activities see them participate in virtual clean-ups of rivers.
At Brookhouse, headteacher Moses Lutta says the key focus is to transform learning approaches in an effort to catch up with rapidly evolving digital literacy requirements.
“It is the realisation that education is evolving very fast and that the integration of VR and metaverse in education is something that we cannot run away from,” states Mr Lutta.
Metaverse is an immersive and persistent three-dimensional (3D) virtual realm, shared with many users, and which spans various digital platforms and merges with the physical world where people can undertake real-life activities in real-time.
12 and above
“Looking at the current world markets, it is important for that digital literacy to be imparted upon the students because that’s where they get those fundamental skills that are required for them to be able to navigate the dynamic global digital landscape,” notes Mr Lutta.
The school head explains that the programme will target students aged 12 and above as they are more conversant with digital literacy tenets, meaning learners at Brookhouse who will access the facility are those between year seven and year 13 of study.
In unpacking the additional value that the metaverse capabilities will bring to the learners, Mr Lutta expounds that the educational technology and immersive proficiencies that come with it will give students experiences that would otherwise be difficult or impossible in real life.
“The conventional teaching and learning method has always been chalk and talk. But now we are trying to immerse the students into an environment whereby they can begin to interact with the real world just by a press of a button,” he notes.
“It’s very different from watching, say, a tutorial video on YouTube. In this model, they are in an environment where they can actually feel they are doing the real thing in a real environment and I think that brings a different scope to the learning process.”
These abilities are touted by experts as massively boosting learners’ grasp of complex curriculum subjects, giving them hands-on learning experiences as well as encouraging active engagement and deeper comprehension.
“I may say it is very captivating in the eyes of the students. Being in that 3D reality makes learning very interesting. Some subjects, for example, World War, are very abstract but VR enables learners to actually be in that situation. In instances where the poisonous gases are being released, the students are actually there inhaling the gases and that makes them resonate more,” states Mr Lutta.
Although the school’s senior management declined to comment on the cost of acquiring the technology, Mr Lutta revealed that the institution had purchased an initial total of 40 VR headsets.
A Business Daily spot check thereafter showed that the headset model is ‘oculus quest 2’ retailing at Sh80,000 each, a cost that is exclusive of the software installation charges. Mr Lutta however notes that no additional costs have been made to the fees payable by the students.