CPS High Schoolers To Return To Virtual Reality In-Person Learning


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Virtual Reality High School

Emma Wall, Managing Editor

Chicago Public Schools recently announced that high school students will be returning to on-campus learning on April 19. High schoolers, however, have much more complex schedules than kindergarten, elementary school, and even junior high school students. Bubbles and hybrid learning certainly pose a larger challenge for the eldest students in Chicago’s school district. 

In an effort to satisfy the parents and students who would like to return to school and the concerns of teachers and school leaders, Chicago Public School leaders have decided to implement a new program: Virtual Reality In-Person. Students and teachers will still be able to learn and teach from home but in an upgraded virtual reality classroom. 

Teachers will set up their virtual reality classrooms, as if in a normal physical classroom, and teach to three-dimensional student avatars. Students and teachers will be able to interact in the virtual classroom, adding a sense of normalcy back into teaching and learning. 

Students are looking forward to the various features and experiences that virtual reality will bring. “I think it would be really interesting to see how lunch, club meetings, and practices would be like in this virtual reality world,” said junior Shinyi Ding (Adv. 209).    

To students, the experience is quite similar to a video game simulator. Ding said, “It would make school more like a video game… I  would be willing to try it… because a VR version [of virtual school] could mix it up a bit”.   

After an orientation at the old school building to pick up the new equipment, which is priced at $200 per student at no cost to families, students will be prepared to start classes. Some schools are implementing the premier program, in which the entire school building will be modeled in virtual reality, giving students the ability to sit in the cafeteria together or play a game of four-square outside. Students and teachers alike are looking forward to this new technology. Some teachers and students are still adjusting to the new technology, but with the help of a built-in tutorial and new player mode, Virtual Reality In-Person Learning should be off to a smooth start. 

The school can also purchase special features such as fire drills, power outages, school assemblies, and collaborations between other schools in the district. Ding also had a special request for a new upcoming feature. She requested, “Can we get the model that comes with the COVID vaccine?”  

There are a few predicted obstacles to this technology. “I think tech issues – internet, mics, etc – would be the biggest thing in terms of obstacles,” Ding continued. Despite possible downsides, virtual reality in-person learning will add a new “excitement factor” and give students another way to engage further with their peers and school leaders. 

The program is set to launch on June 23, 2021 for the fourth quarter of the school year and will not be used in summer school. Schools are hopeful the program will be a success come summer break.