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VR in Education: Genuine Learning Applications but Commercialisation Unclear

VR in Education Market Analysis and Commentary

13 Jun 2017 - Immersive technologies are creating whole new EdTech worlds and opportunities for learning, yet monetisation models need to be established.

Content publishers, head mounted display manufacturers and educational institutions are keen to push the learning boundaries and benefits of both virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR) and mixed reality (MR) into the classroom but with content largely delivered free the monetisation model remains unclear, highlights Futuresource Consulting in its latest report, adding that AR/VR headsets are forecast to reach 2 million shipments by 2021.

VR along with related technologies, AR and MR shows genuine potential to enhance learning outcomes for students of all ages across a variety of disciplines, outlined in the report Immersive Technologies in Education: A Review of The Market Landscape & Opportunities.

The benefits of VR in particular are based around participatory as opposed to passive learning to drive greater knowledge retention. 

The virtual tour has been promoted as the premier application for the utilisation of VR in K-12 to date, allowing students to visit locations outside of the classroom without the associated cost of a real life field trip.

The medical sector has been another area of focus with a number of high profile trials taking place including those sponsored by Pearson and Microsoft. Virtual labs to support scientists in conducting otherwise dangerous or costly experiments are also an opportunity for scalable VR deployment going forwards and unlike virtual tour applications, offer potential for monetisation. Language learning offers similarities to simulation based training experiences with existing provision to the consumer market expected to translate to institutional sales in the mid to long term.

Creative tools servicing specific vocational subjects like architecture, engineering and product design are also expected to be a key driver for VR adoption in universities but these solutions are typically provided to students without charge by providers looking to seed future users in industry. 

Head mounted display (HMD) manufacturers including Oculus, Google and Microsoft are partnering with educational publishers and content providers to develop content for education, hoping to seed the market for large scale adoption. Shipments of VR headsets to the higher and further education sector are expected to reach 700,000 units in 2021 accounting for $150 million in revenue. PC based and all in one solutions (the combined purchase of a headset and mobile device) are each forecast to account for a sizeable share of shipments. Sales of higher priced AR headsets are expected to escalate later in the forecast period with major hardware releases slated for the back end of the decade.

In the K-12 market, Futuresource expects the number of students accessing HMD based VR/MR/AR content in K-12 institutions to grow from 2.1 million in 2016 to 82.7 million in 2021. The majority of use cases will be supported by all in one headsets. Major IT resellers, servicing the education market started to sell multi headset VR kits to schools 2016.

“Monetising VR at the point of sale to the end user will be a challenge,” said Ben Davis, Futuresource analyst and co-author of the research. “The limitations of VR technology as it stands today mean most content is short form, ‘snackable’ experiences. A difficult sell for the K-12 education publishing sector which still largely relies on physical textbooks, a three to five year replacement model and a direct sales channel. In addition, K-12 education is one of the few verticals that does not present a large install base of mobile devices which can be utilised for VR experience delivery. Issues concerning equality of access and the management and safety of student devices is likely to prevent ‘Bring Your Own Device’ (BYOD) models, meaning schools must make sizeable hardware investments to introduce VR to the classroom at scale.”

So, while the use of VR may offer significant benefits to students in terms of engagement, its application in the short term will be limited and content will typically be provided to users for free or integrated into broader courseware solutions without additional charge. 

“If content providers are not able to monetise the integration of VR solutions into content offerings but their competitors are offering VR content as a value add, they risk either losing competitive position or taking on additional cost without additional financial return, added Davis.” “The value end users place in this free to access content will determine how pervasive the technology becomes across the education publishing sector, and, in turn, this will influence hardware demand.”

Immersive Technologies in Education: A Review of The Market Landscape & Opportunities is the product of in-depth telephone and face to face interviews with multiple suppliers from each product sector. You will learn what is the current and projected future penetration of immersive technology in educational institutions and what are the drivers and barriers impacting market demand.


Futuresource Consulting is a specialist research and knowledge-based consulting company, providing organisations with insight into consumer electronics, digital imaging, entertainment media, broadcast, storage media, education technology and IT. With a heritage stretching back to the 1980s, the company delivers in-depth analysis and forecasts on a global scale, advising on strategic positioning, market trends, competitive forces and technological developments. 

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