Virtual Reality (VR) is increasingly becoming a staple in educational technology. Optima Academy Online, a school providing classical education through VR, has emerged as a unique example. The approach, while innovative, raises concerns about the future of public schools and potential health implications for students.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Optima Academy Online is pioneering the blend of VR and classical education.
  • Health experts raise concerns about extended VR use in educational settings.
  • The rise of VR education could undermine traditional public schools.
  • Classical education offers a well-rounded, in-depth learning experience.

The Problem at Hand

Optima Academy Online is not your usual school, it leverages VR to offer a classical education. While this cutting-edge technology shows promise for revolutionizing education, critics are concerned about the long-term impact on traditional public schooling and the health of students exposed to VR for extended periods.

The Unique Approach of Optima Academy Online

The school targets students in third through eighth grades, providing each student with a Meta Quest 2 VR headset. According to Emma Green, a staff writer for the New Yorker, the VR classrooms feel like a “video game” where teachers can “spawn all of these different tools” to make the learning environment adaptable and engaging. The founder, Erika Donalds, sees VR as a logical extension of her activism in the school choice movement.

“Fundamentally, the school choice movement is about giving parents and families the flexibility to be able to access a free, publicly funded education, but to do so on their own terms.”

However, experts have reservations. Jeremy Bailenson, a Stanford researcher, warns against using VR as the main delivery mechanism for full-time schooling. His rule in his lab is “30 minutes at a time,” citing potential ‘simulator sickness’ and the unknown consequences of long-term VR use on developing brains. Erika Donalds counters that they’ve set boundaries, with sessions typically lasting 30 to 40 minutes.

Will VR Use in Education Drive Families Away from Traditional Public Schools?

The advent of VR in education brings up questions about the future of traditional public schools. Optima Academy Online’s offering could lead parents to opt for alternative forms of education, undermining public schools that are already struggling for funding and student engagement.

The Benefits of Classical Education in the Modern World

Classical education, often thought of as old-fashioned, has numerous benefits. It provides a well-rounded learning experience focusing on the traditional canons of arts, literature, and culture. Students delve into classical texts, studying languages, history, and much more. “With our approach to classical education, students learn about historical events, characters, stories, fables, myths, scientific facts, and mathematical proofs in the locations where these educational advances were made,” claims the school’s website.

Examples of Classical Education Benefits

  • Critical Thinking: Socratic dialogues and debates in classical education foster critical thinking skills.
  • Cultural Awareness: Studying classical texts helps students appreciate the diversity of human thought and culture.
  • Language Skills: Learning ancient languages like Latin or Greek enhances vocabulary and understanding of language structure.
Critical ThinkingSocratic Dialogues
Cultural AwarenessStudying Classical Texts
Language SkillsLearning Latin or Greek

While VR education has shown promise, the surge in its popularity raises numerous questions. The blending of VR and classical education is novel but faces potential challenges. Health concerns and the future of traditional public schooling hang in the balance as more families may opt for VR education.


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