CfESEND blog: enhancing our curriculum with virtual reality at Derby College Group

Blog by Ben Walkerdine, Project Lead on Digital Inclusion at Derby College Group, for the Centres for Excellence in SEND programme.

My role in the Derby College Group (DCG) Inclusion Team is to ensure our staff team and learners have access to appropriate and personalised technology to enable them to do their best job or unlock progression, our mission is “Enabling everyone” and our goal is that all our students progress to further study or work.

The college has recently invested in several VR (Virtual Reality) headsets. This happened to coincide with me being tasked to research and propose alternatives to an old piece of software, we used to help and support students find strategies to manage anxiety.

I had a ’light bulb’ moment whilst watching Australian football (exciting, I know) it occurred  to me, that we could use the headsets with free downloadable apps such as Calm, Guided Meditation, Calm Place, Guided Relaxation, Happy Place and Let B to replace the old software and make what we do more relevant and up to date for our learners.

“Virtual reality can be used to enhance learning and engagement.”

 Research is showing that VR has the potential to increase learner motivation, improve collaboration and overall knowledge. The VR technology can enhance the alliance between teachers, and the future workplace in distance learning and classroom-based teaching and learning.

In simple terms, VR can help us break down historical boundaries, such as location and transition planning for many of our learners’ inclusion needs.

Another app we have started to trial specifically for supporting our personalised transition process is called Tour Viewer. Initial feedback from our students and their supporters is superb, it’s has been a great asset; it has meant that learners can virtually visit places, specifically our college campus’ and this enables us to personalised transition in to college. We now plan on working on using this technology to enhance transition out of the college too.

I believe that we are at the very start of the process of using VR and there are no limits to what we can do to innovate and change curriculum offers. Particularly as we are entering a term of innovation and challenge with our remote teaching swiftly becoming the norm for most of our students!

We have used the below research to inform our practice.

Meeting the needs of learners aged 16-19 who were not in school for part or all of Key Stage 4

We have also shared the research with several schools, we are all working together to achieve the same outcomes for the learners.

This has been the first year of running the VR transition program, so we don’t currently have any impact data, but rest assured I will be following this blog up with another that will show all our findings in the coming months.

We are offering technology sessions as part of our ongoing Centre for Excellence in SEND face to face Curriculum development sessions – check out the SEND Excellence Gateway for more information. For more information on curriculumn development or to share practice email us at:


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