Zoom vs Virtual Reality in Education

The Basic Features of Zoom

The primary purpose of Zoom in education is for eLearning or distance learning, with the use of secure video communication.

“Zoom has allowed online learning programs to be more successfully deployed …. The video quality of Zoom allows all remote participants to better see the faces of their classmates while easily integrating content sharing, breakouts, and annotation.” Tom O’Neil, IT Director at Brandeis University

Zoom services for education and teaching include:

  • Two-way interaction with two-way video and audio
  • Video breakout rooms
  • Video Webinar
  • Session recording and transcription

Advantages of Zoom

  • Utilize resources and hardware you already have
  • Integrates seamlessly with learning management system (LMS)
  • Affordable plans starting at $1800 annually

Benefits of Zoom to Students and Teachers

  • Simple to use and high video quality and audio
  • Zoom holds a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement which means it can be used to securely hold patient health information
  • Collaborative research in real-time, with anyone, anywhere in the world
  • Guest lecturers can contribute seamlessly
  • Increased productivity
  • Faster and improved retention of knowledge

Learning with Zoom in Education

Zoom enables two-way interaction between remote students and teachers with a combination of features that help to support remote or distance learning and research. Larger groups can be divided to work in smaller groups via video breakout rooms and send information via text or files with group messaging features.

This means individuals can also receive one to one feedback without the need to arrange separate meetings.

Video webinars have become a vital lifeline to many industries due to the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. Zoom provides a platform for interactive online seminars and for many industries this provides global access to seminars. This is turn makes it possible for individuals from around the world to attend who would not have been able to attend a ‘physical’ seminar.

The Basic Features of Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual reality enables the participant to be fully immersed and interact within, a three-dimensional, simulated environment of any specification.

Applications for virtual reality in education and teaching include:

  • Enables students to experience-rich simulated learning
  • Designed to support learning by enabling the simulation of practical applications to teach practical lessons
  • Stimulates the senses which improves retention of information

Advantages of VR

  • Easy to use
  • Users can create unique content that will support learning in any subject
  • Delivers practical training projects, through fully interactive ‘real-life’ simulations
  • Design applications provide students with the ability to create images in 3D prototypes
  • Provides a ‘first-hand’ experience

Benefits of VR to Students and Teachers

  • Enables students to ‘virtually’ visit the university and campus before applying to attend a course
  • Provides a ‘real’ classroom experience for fully immersive, virtual distant learning
  • Supports students with physical disabilities by providing equal accessibility to (simulated) practical lessons
  • Medical and veterinary applications with fully interactive ‘real-life’ simulations
  • Provides a safe way to learn dangerous procedures, without risk of injury or death
  • Provides interactive global, virtual trips to virtual sites of interest
  • Gives users the ability to safely learn specialist skills such as, how to operate expensive equipment

Learning with VR in Education

VR enables ‘real-life’ interaction with various realities and objects. Fields such as medical science and technological learning can be supported and effective use of VR provides access to education that would have previously required a physical location, to accommodate the practical aspects of the course.

VR software incorporates multi-language support for international students, making their educational experience equal and breaking down language barriers. Another significant advantage of VR is the software adaptability to respond to each student and recognise good performance. This is equally important to enhance progress with research in diverse fields such as disease management and vaccine development.

A systematic review of immersive virtual reality applications for higher education: Design elements, lessons learned, and research agenda


The Disadvantages of Zoom and Virtual Reality (VR)

Disadvantages of Zoom include:

  • Zoom bombing – has become a very serious issue and on the 30th of March, the FBI announced it was investigating this issue to find hackers who have infiltrated Zoom meetings. Hijackers often use racial slurs or threats to disrupt meetings causing great distress to users.
  • Security flaws – include a hidden web server that was revealed in 2019 that allowed users to join in Zoom meeting without permission. Another bug recently uncovered is a Mac issue that allows hackers to take control of a Zoom user’s webcam and microphone when used on a Mac.
  • Privacy violations – the current hijacker issue is of great concern to educational facilities, who have a legal responsibility to protect students from hate crime and protect their data.

Disadvantages of VR include:

  • Reduces human interaction, undermining communication outside of the virtual world.
  • Requires an initial capital cost
  • Can cause motion sickness, dizziness, and migraines

Frontiers in Psychology – Presence and Cybersickness in Virtual Reality Are Negatively Related: A Review


Interestingly found this point and worth a mention. Users can become addicted to ‘their’ virtual reality and dissociate from real life

NCBI – Head-Mounted Virtual Reality and Mental Health: Critical Review of Current Research


Zoom meetings with VR

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated change in both secure video communication and VR. A new app called Spaces now provides another way for meetings to utilise VR, to provide a more interactive experience.

Spaces is simple to download and use and provides the VR user to join in on a virtual adjustable webcam, with the user represented by an avatar. Another significant advantage of Spaces, is the virtual whiteboard the VR user can share with all participants.

Is Zoom or VR better, for supporting teaching and learning?

Zoom currently is the most widely used and economically affordable, option in education. Although virtual reality undoubtedly provides certain practical applications in medical education and industries such as anatomy, clinical simulation in healthcare and astrophysics, chemistry, biology the cost of VR can be prohibitive in educational settings. For the lucky few who do have access to VR, research has shown that learning with VR improves and combines active and symbolic learning. This, in turn, improves comprehension, concentration, performance, and retention of the subject taught.

Zoom offers an affordable alternative incorporating the VR that the user is incorporating into the meeting. The user can easily share with participants who are not using a VR headset, whatever the VR, augmented reality is demonstrating; other users do not need to have any VR equipment. An example would be if during a medical training session the teacher is performing a procedure on a VR heart, the students will be able to see exactly what is being done in the Zoom platform.

Zoom does not, however, give other users without VR equipment the ability to participate in the VR demonstration as this is limited to the VR user.

VR comes into its own in education by allowing VR users to actively participate in virtual reality, to perform tasks that would otherwise require a physical location or special equipment. With costs slowly decreasing VR has already been introduced as a learning tool and is proving to be extremely effective. With the COVID-19 pandemic preventing educational facilities holding lessons VR has been used by numerous facilities to continue to teach virtually.

A recent example showing the use of VR has been utilised during the COVID 19 pandemic by the University of Sydney. The School of Psychology has set up a VR laboratory to enable teaching during the COVID-19 shutdown, allowing users to understand how psychological conditions can cause physical reactions, such as phobias, pain, and PTSD.

A significant advantage of VR is that with standard eLearning or distance learning, with the use of secure video communication practical applications can only be demonstrated and it does not allow users to participate in practical training exercises, vital for medical and many other types of scientific and dangerous industries. VR, however, does enable practical training to be taught and progression to be carefully monitored to ensure competency. This is certainly an important way VR is superior to Zoom or other forms of video communication which may restrict learning capability, due to a lack of access for participation in practical training.

In summary, both Zoom virtual video communication and virtual reality applications, are rapidly becoming part of learning. Which is better for learning will often depend on the subject and requirements and both the use of Zoom and VR is expected to rise exponentially within educational facilities, over the next 5 years.

Back to All News