The answer to this is impossible to give generically, though its not gonna stop me trying, it will depend on budget, purpose, space and much more.
So what i will do is give some options for single use, a few headsets and then some of the higher priced full class sets like Google Expeditions offer but that is a significant investment for most schools, and in truth as good as it is I am not sure how much use it would get in today’s education systems.
1. Budget options for Teachers and Schools
So lets start with a taster option that you can use to build motivation or as a station in station teaching. This is what i started and continue to do as i teach primary ESL students. If you are in Mainstream classrooms you will have more scope and opportunity to use VR in lessons as alternative means of instruction and as experiential learning strategies.
As mentioned in the Why i use VR post a few days ago i started with a Gear VR and a Samsung phone, but this was purely because it came as a free gift with the phone. I also bought a generic brand slightly better quality than a google cardboard headset as well. which has its bonuses due to it not being reliant on Samsung and Oculus for content. These headsets can be picked up for as little as 15 USD, and if you do get a cardboard version they can be as low as 5 USD, of course the phone will cost you more, and i will put a section at the bottom for the requirements of that as although plenty can run VR there are a couple of bits of hardware you need inside them.
The generic brands and the google cardboard version of a VR headset are perfectly good enough for school, you can still download a huge selection of apps and experiences for them ( see my personal selection here soon) they are fairly solid so can handle the rigors of numerous students handling them one after another, and they have exactly the same effect on students as a higher end Oculus Rift or similar computer run model. If it was me, and it was, i would choose this option if you are just wanting to offer the students a different learning experience. The cardboard version will have to be held onto the face with the hands while the slightly better brands will come with a Velcro strap so they can be used hands free. and are about 9 USD from the top link above, the not official but basically the same with a strap is 8 USD from the link just above this. I think I’m supposed to say click and buy, but you might be able to find a better deal in those shops i mentioned so i wont.
Slightly more robust, and in truth what i would go for as 30 hands on cardboard is going to take it out of any cardboard no matter how strong it is, are these generic versions as well, and for the sake of one or two dollars i think that is worth it. If you get free shipping i would buy one to test then maybe another later if you have the spare phones.
You can pick these up from toy stores and gadget shops all over ( well here in Hong Kong you can) but i have included links to some examples on this page as well. (affiliate ones of course) but shopping round may get you a better deal.
Mid range (ish) VR options.
I will discuss two options here one is cheaper than the other, but the second is only here as mid-range as the final section is both eyewateringly expensive and scary to be handing to a class of thirty eight years olds, that’s thirty students who are eight years old, not a class of thirty eight year olds, which may be less scary, but probably less fun.
The first option is from Oculus and i actually bought one of these though haven’t tried it out with my class yet as the cheaper ones work just fine. I have it in school though and will load it up and try it soon. It is called the Oculus Go Standalone Virtual Reality Headset – 32GB and removes the need for a phone as its entirely built in to the headset. So if you don’t have a suitable phone this may also be a cheaper version. ( it also stops the chance of Facebook or WhatsApp messages popping up as your phone is strapped to you students face – yes this has happened many times to me- now the phone is just for VR but in the early days it wasn’t) it comes is 32 Gb and 64 GB which should be enough room for about 40 apps and 80 apps each as well as some movies and games. It is also supported by Oculus VR who are pretty much the benchmark to measure all other equipment and currently have about 1000 apps out there.
The lack of a phone also means no chance of it dropping out and onto the stone floor of a bar after you showed a friend a scary VR app and he took it off his face screaming for example. This will also save you some money.
I actually use the phone models to screen share onto the classroom whiteboard though, so that all students can see what is happening as well as the student in the VR, this option isnt in this all in one model yet.
However, if you don’t have a phone and don’t mind, or the school don’t mind, spending 150 USD on a standalone model then this could be a choice. they are usually 200 dollars but i found one for this price. They may all come down to this price as there is a newer version released just recently with a higher price tag
This is called the Oculus Quest Oculus Quest All-in-one VR Gaming Headset – 64GB . and it doesn’t come cheap. I cant review it as it costs about 550 USd and that takes it beyond the range of my wallet for school resources (teachers salary etc) however it comes with a feature i love. It has sensors in it which means you can put it on and walk about your space, classroom , house, bedroom etc and it should alert you when you get to close to a wall, table or the TV etc. If these don’t work it will be very expensive of course.
It also has game controllers shipped with it which allow a more interactive experience however for the price of more than three of its baby brothers I’m not sure this is a viable alternative. It contains basically the specs of a two year old phone and although from what i have heard it runs really well, It is made for games more than anything else. So seems to be basically an Oculus Rift without wires and slight inferior graphics. Would you want to put this in the hands of your class, be they eight or thirty eight years old!
If you work at a school made of gold
Then the following may be of interest, i don’t so to me it would be just for home and even then not my home as in Hong Kong the cat swinging room, never mind the VR controller swinging room is somewhat limited. However, for those of you with cash, or teaching at Eton there are some more premium options when it comes to VR. Theses are the Oculus Oculus Rift S PC-Powered VR Gaming Headset ( told you they were the benchmark) and the HTC Vive. HTC VIVE Pro Starter Edition- Virtual Reality System
These two are at the moment the top of the VR tree, and i do know of schools that have them. These are not primary schools like mine though, they are international secondary schools with a pot of cash very deep. they use them to teach coding and design and are pretty careful with them. These systems require a desktop, or very good laptop, attached to them which is what bumps the price up considerably. They also require significant space to be able to set them up as they are ones you can move about with rather than spin around on an office chair like me and my students do.
Their screens are also more superior and the screen door (pixal) effect is much less on these.
However, even for personal use being strapped to a desktop spoils the illusion somewhat, and the benefit of those better screens could be outweighed by that. The price alone, a thousand dollars for the full HTC Vive package before you factor in the computer makes it an extravagance and a risk in a classroom even with older learners.
Although you get what you pay for i don’t think the leap up from the Oculus Go is worth the extra, and if you are using it just for experiences, additional learning and to motivate i think that will be the way to go. That said if you want to buy a HTC Vive then feel free to click that link, and if enough of you do i might be able to get one for myself 😛 and if that ever happens be assured the students would be kept well, well away from it!
Please check out my other posts on both VR in schools and if you have or are planning to use VR in your school let us know in the comments below!.
About the Author
Hi I’m Marc. A teacher of over 15 years, mostly English but dabbled in outdoor pursuits and media. Thought is was about time to sharing both what I have learnt during that time and the resources I have put together. On this site we aim to teach the theory and share our thoughts, but also go that one step further and give you access to the hard resources you need for your class or for you children. Feel free to take a look at our resources, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or jump on the Facebook group to ask questions. Happy learning, teaching or playing!
Post by Marc of Making English Fun
Happy VRing and thanks for stopping by.