Virtual reality: “The French education system must be more ambitious”

INTERVIEW – It is urgent that French universities and establishments use virtual reality in all disciplines, believes Nicolas Dupain, president of France Immersive Learning.

Nicolas Dupain is president of France Immersive Learning. The association brings together 160 members (major technology groups, start-ups, training organizations, schools, universities, etc.). The objective is to federate the emerging sector of Immersive Learning, that is to say learning via virtual reality. Its subsidiary, the Immersive Learning Lab (i2L), is a consulting and training company that supports the development of uses.

THE STUDENT FIGARO. – What is the use of virtual reality?

Nicholas DUPAIN. – For a long time, simulators have been used to develop precise, complex professional gestures, for example learning to fly an airplane or operating on a patient. On the other hand, almost all other skills in many disciplines, and the famous “soft skills” (social skills Editor’s note), benefit from being taught in virtual reality. With a virtual reality (VR) headset, you can be teleported into a realistic environment, such as a simulated sale in a store or a loan negotiation in a bank. The teacher or the manager will be able to allow you to give the best of yourself. The avatar is indeed a powerful lever to create a certain distance from oneself, which releases inhibitions. Immersive technologies at the service of teaching renew both the pleasure of learning and transmitting. VR makes it possible to offer high-quality individual or collective immersions, thus offering significant engagement and much better memorization.

Is France late?

In Anglo-Saxon countries, VR is already used in class or remotely. The French education system is seizing it, but it must be more ambitious. Many French SMEs are struggling in the face of giants with considerable means, such as Meta, Amazon, Apple or Microsoft, which will soon be offering museum visits, concerts, sporting events, virtual festivals… and educational content.

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We must give ourselves the means to have the source codes of virtual learning platforms, to gradually bring universities, colleges and high schools to develop the uses of virtual reality in all disciplines. Public decision-makers must now design a strategic plan that guarantees us a minimum of French-speaking and European sovereignty in education.

How far can we go?

In principle, anything is possible. However, we don’t know how to create a “conversational agent” avatar that is not inhabited by a real person, with whom you will have a natural conversation. Teachers therefore remain essential to the act of transmission, a social situation in essence. Remote virtual reality training, the metaverse, is a modality that must now be mastered by trainers.

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Virtual reality: “The French education system must be more ambitious”

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