3 Trends for VR in Higher Education in 2023

 Christophe Mallet , CEO of Bodyswaps
January 20th 2023

Let’s get right to it: here are 3 trends I expect to play out for VR in the Higher Education market in 2023.


#1 - Acceleration of hardware adoption
#2 - Multiplication of critical use cases driving stickiness
#3 - Identification of best practices for scalable deployment

Trying to avoid making this a useless crystal-ball gazing exercise, I’m basing those on what we learned from our 50+ clients in Higher Ed and the 230 applications we received from tertiary education institutions for our immersive soft skills grant with Meta.

#1 - Acceleration of hardware adoption

Early adopters of VR for learning have spent the past couple of years piloting multiple apps at a small scale with a view of demonstrating learner appetite and learning performance. 

Strong results have led institutions to position VR as an important component of their digital transformation plans for the next 5 years. In the applications we’ve received, we’ve read about numerous institutions including budget lines for VR hardware, software and human support, at a scale far beyond the pilot stage. 

In 2023, this will lead to more case studies and best practices being shared, which, in this highly networked market, could turn into a snowball effect for adoption.

This means VR is now being adopted not as a Innovation/PR stunt but as meaningful opportunity to tackle mission-critical objectives.

#2 - Critical use cases driving stickiness

Increasingly, institutions are zeroing in on specific institutional challenges for VR. Those are varied, widely shared and often critical. Grant applications mentioned objectives like solving teacher shortage, plugging the employability skills gap of students, supporting inclusivity in teaching practice, improving cost-effectiveness and repeatability of practice-based learning or widening participation and access for underserved populations.

This means VR is now being adopted not as a Innovation/PR a stunt but as meaningful opportunity to tackle mission-critical objectives. Therefore, it’s getting the necessary level of senior leadership buy-in for institutions to invest the right amount of resources, financial and human, required to overcome the initial deployment hurdles.

#3 - Identification of best practices for scalable deployment

Finally, we’re seeing VR leave the FabLab where there was always a high-risk for headsets to start gathering dust in the shelf next to the 3D printer. Instead, immersive learning has triggered investment for more permanent installations as part of long-term initiatives, often supported by Technology-Enhanced Learning teams, Library Services and increasingly dedicated VR teams.  

In 2023, a favorable environment will emerge to test and lock how immersive learning modalities can be durably integrated into the curriculum or services provided by the institutions.


Robot using a typewriter


Where this leads, optimistically

In theory, we're starting to cross the chasm from early adopters to early majority, leaving a purely explorative stage to start embedding immersive learning as a proven approach to meaningfully improving student outcomes.

As multiple VR applications start being used on shared devices, integrated into the curriculum, and the learning performance data captured remain strong, the ROI of XR initiatives will increase, creating a virtuous cycle of adoption > mutualisation of use cases > ROI > adoption.

What could go wrong

Things will go awry if hardware adoption happens without being matched by investment in deployment capabilities. Or if deployment best pactices and use cases are not shared with the broader industry concurrently to this adoption.

Then VR learning initiatives could perform poorly,  creating the misperception of an underwhelming cost/benefit ratio for XR learning as a whole, and grind the aforementioned virtuous cycle to a halt.

Working with Educators

That’s why software creators like ourselves must work hand-in-hand with institutions and educators. We must understand both the macro-trajectory of the industry and the tactical realities of the field.

We will use that knowledge and those relationships to co-design solutions that can not only impact students outcomes on an individual basis but also empower institutions to bring experiential learning, cost-efficiently, to traditionally underserved populations.


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