NASA shows the world its 20-year virtual reality experiment to train astronauts: The inside story

Erin Carson, Tech Republic, Sept 17, 2015
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is a terrific article on NASA's use of virtual reality to train astronauts. A lot of the focus of VR is on skills training, but the article makes it clear that one of it's key roles is to give the astronauts a feeling of familiarity with the environment and to help them develop the right intuitions for working in a weightless environment. "There's a great advantage in just feeling as though the environment isn't entirely new. 'It means everything. It's not hard to realize that just beyond that thin little visor is instantaneous death. It's oblivion,' Wheelock said." E-learning (including VR) can prepare us far better than traditional instruction for such situations (indeed, the idea of teaching it in a classroom is laughable). So - to answer the traditional objection to e-learning - I wouldn't want to employ an astronaut (or a pilot, or a brain surgeon) who didn't use e-learning.

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