It is difficult to talk meaningfully about virtual reality (VR), since there have been several types of computing technology that are given this label, and a number of differing aims ascribed to their use. The origins can be projected backwards almost indefinitely into myths and legends of other worlds, or related to twentieth century science fiction (which though seemingly prescient, in hindsight, has influenced our development, use and interpretation of present day technologies). Many still impute to such technologies quasi-mystical powers which remove us, in some ambiguous fashion, from the here-and-now, and places us somewhere else, namely the virtual. In this paper, I discuss what the adoption in UK universities over the last 15 years of educational technology, namely Virtual Learning Environments and Virtual Worlds, tells us about responses to computers, the idea of the virtual, and to what extent we can use novel educational technologies effectively in higher education.