University of Tennessee business college uses VR headsets in class

Students try out Oculus headsets during Mark Collins's marketing capstone class.

The pandemic ushered in the tricky world of virtual education, which is a tale of mixed success. Some professors have gone back into the classroom full-time, but others aren’t ready to stop exploring new online possibilities. 

A professor at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business is taking things to another level all together. He’s experimenting with how the world of virtual reality — not just onscreen class time but full immersion into a shared setting — might be the future of learning. 

Students are able to take Mark Collins’ marketing capstone course through virtual reality, listening to their lectures at home while “exploring” their auditorium set in the middle of a virtual desert.

It looks like something out of a video game. Human-like, customized figures without legs float around the desert-themed auditorium, one of the several surreal meeting spaces available on the virtual reality meeting platform Spatial. It’s their lecture hall for the semester.