A significant challenge is the upfront financial investment required to establish VR learning programs. Nursing programs would need to purchase VR headsets, develop or purchase VR learning modules, and potentially make modifications to classroom spaces to accommodate VR usage. Initial estimates suggest that fully equipping even a small to mid-sized nursing program could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. This level of investment may be difficult for many programs to secure, especially given existing budget constraints that many nursing schools face. Additional ongoing costs are also likely, such as replacing or updating equipment, purchasing new modules, technical support, etc.
Another major challenge is the time required for faculty development and training. Integrating a new technology like VR into the curriculum is a major undertaking that changes the way instruction is designed and delivered. It can take considerable time for faculty to learn how to use the VR equipment effectively, develop pedagogically sound lesson plans around VR modules, and facilitate VR-based learning activities. This level of training may present scheduling and workload issues for existing nursing faculty who already have full teaching responsibilities. It may necessitate reducing other curricular content or hiring additional instructors dedicated to VR. Extensive faculty buy-in to the value of VR learning is also important for successful adoption but can take time to achieve.
Potential challenges exist in effectively incorporating VR into already full nursing course schedules and degree plans too. Finding ways to realistically fit VR modules and necessary pre/post lesson activities into 50-60 minute class periods without disrupting other essential content is difficult. Similarly, determining how many credits or clinical hours VR activities should count for and how that impacts program accreditation requirements needs careful consideration. Students may also face challenges in accessing and using VR equipment outside of classroom time if modules are intended to replace or augment other learning modalities like readings, lectures, etc. Technical glitches or delays could disrupt classroom instruction if Wi-Fi bandwidth or equipment performance are issues.
Student preparedness for engaging with immersive VR learning experiences may be an additional challenge for many programs initially. While younger digital natives are generally very comfortable with technologies like VR, older and returning students adjusting to advanced educational technologies presents its own learning curve. Helping students who are less familiar with VR to quickly feel at ease in an immersive virtual world and draw the right lessons from their experience may require supplemental student supports. Addressing individual VR access needs is critical too, such as for students with visual or cognitive impairments. Initial student resistance to a perceived “gaming” technology in formal nursing education is possible also and should be overcome through emphasizing VR’s direct application to real clinical skills.
Establishing measures for effective VR program assessment and outcomes evaluation are further challenges programs may face. Defining appropriate metrics and developing rigorous evaluation methodologies to demonstrate how VR impacts competency achievement, knowledge retention, perceived preparation for practice, and other important learning outcomes can require significant research efforts. Regional and national nursing accrediting bodies also expect data-driven evidence that innovative teaching approaches are enhancing education quality, adding value to existing curricula, and supporting quality program outcomes.
While VR has great promise to elevate nursing education through dynamic, immersive simulations, thoughtful consideration and planning is required to address challenges concerning financial investment, faculty development, curricular integration logistics, student access and preparedness, and program evaluation. With effort to plan for all stakeholder needs and target success metrics upfront, the potential for VR to revolutionize nursing students’ clinical preparation can be realized. But meaningful adoption of this game-changing technology necessitates overcoming initial obstacles through long-term institutional commitment and investment in change management.