Augmented reality (AR) has been slowly but surely following its predecessor virtual reality in changing the education sector — digitizing classroom learning, and making training more diverse and interactive.

Still, with so many new innovations hitting the market each day, educators need to consider what is worthwhile their investment and would benefit their curricula. AR may not always respond to their needs, so to make that decision, it is necessary to understand the technology and its offer.

 

In a nutshell, if implemented strategically, mobile augmented reality can add value to learners of all ages, starting from nursery kids to primary school pupils, all the way to college and university students. And, most recently, AR has been brought in to support people in various fields with on-the-job training and recruited within niche sectors to help people comprehend complex topics and learn interactively. 

The key benefits of AR as an educational technology are

  1. AR can be quickly recruited to revive existing materials – no need to create brand new stuff
  2. AR materials can be accessed by learners anywhere, using their own devices
  3. AR can help educators and training providers to convey complex subjects
  4. AR doesn’t replace traditional learning process, it boosts it by providing an alternative visual learning opportunity
  5. AR doesn’t require learners to buy sophisticated equipment or expensive materials
  6. AR helps to maintain attention on a particular item or topic for  longer
  7. AR offers gamification potential, and almost 68% of learners report that gamified courses are more or much more motivating than traditional ones.

What AR content can add value to education and training?

Bringing colored drawings to life with augmented reality

One of the best use cases that I’ve seen for nursery age children comes from Disney. Quoting Disney Research, coloring books give kids one of their earliest opportunities for creative expression, but “given the proliferation and popularity of digital devices, real-world activities like coloring can seem unexciting, and children become less engaged in them. Augmented reality holds unique potential to impact this situation by providing a bridge between real-world activities and digital enhancements.”

Augmented reality for medical students and school children

Going onto primary, secondary school and university studies, AR can add real value to science-based learning. Not everyone can buy a skeleton to learn about the human body or explore specific aspects of its build in more depth. However, everyone with access to an AR-enabled book or application could retrieve such information in 3D format and satisfy their preference for visual learning. It is not just anatomy though, think about visualization of how protons, atoms, neutrons, and electrons work in chemistry and what the applications could be for biology.

Cosmic discoveries through augmented reality

Similar to the above, yet, I wanted to highlight solar and planetary studies separately. This is another area that is just so vast that it may be hard to visualize and grasp only through illustrations. Below is an example for younger generations.

A more advanced option that I named as one of the best AR moments of 2019 is merging science, history, and gamification. Smithsonian Channel dedicated an AR app to NASA’s Apollo 11 lunar mission. The app includes quite a few small AR games, such as landing on the moon, as well as the exploration of 3D objects, including Neil Armstrong’s spacesuit. It gives people of all ages an interactive and engaging way of finding out more about the historic moment in the comfort of their own homes.

Card games that educate and develop logical thinking

Another educational use case for augmented reality that can run from nursery to adult courses, is card games. One of the examples we’ve delivered is an integrated AR solution for Logic Cards. The cards are available in the biggest bookstores across Europe and feature logic, geometry, and mathematical tasks aiming to train people’s minds. The augmented reality feature has been implemented as an assistant for problem-solving. While traditional tests may reveal the result, AR functionality shows how the outcome was achieved.

All you have to do is search for augmented reality card games on YouTube to find out various examples of education and entertainment from across the world. 

 

AR creation tool for people of all ages

Although all of the above examples add value, augmented reality doesn’t just have to retrieve content. AR is another platform that can allow students to create and visualize their creations. When it comes to schoolchildren, one example is Grib app, which helps pupils to develop things that they couldn’t even imagine, giving them a powerful tool to create and model in 3D. Such platforms as Overly’s DIY augmented reality creator or similar services allow learners to create marker-based AR experiences. Excellent for IT, design, marketing students, and more.

On-boarding and training

AR can also play a vital role in niche training for warehouse, factory, and manufacturing workers. For a while, we’ve seen virtual reality recruited in this area. Yet, it still removes people from the actual environment, and in some ways (sorry if this sounds harsh) can be similar to plain instructions, scrolling through presentations and comparing images to real-life settings. Augmented reality, on the other hand, can interact with real-life objects, creating overlays with instructions. Below is an example from Riga Motormuseum, where AR-enabled tablets located around an old-school vehicle let people learn how the car’s motor, gearbox, and differential work. 

Empowering customers through AR learning process

Quite an informal approach to education can also be taken by companies to educate customers about their products as well as allow them to fix bugs or quickly learn about their new gadgets. An example of effective use of instructions comes from Hyundai. The company has developed a digital owner’s manual that shows you how to fix your car. All you need to do is hold up your phone, and the digital guide will tell you what to do.

Day-to-day communication made easier

Publishing in terms of newspapers and magazines is a whole new topic and will be the next topic for my blog. However, I have to mention this sector within the educational context as well, because why do people purchase print press? To get entertained, to find out something new, to educate themselves, to hear new opinions. And we start using this traditional medium as kids, reading through such magazines as Illustrated Science or Nat Geo Kids. We’ve worked on several magazine campaigns, but I wanted to share this AR example from Harvard Business Review to bring to light how magazines can educate their readers about more complex topics as well as draw their attention to issues with augmented reality.

Who wants augmented reality, who needs it, and who should serve it up?

While the above examples showcase that AR can benefit both formal and informal education, industrial training, and boost individual learning, the question of who should do the work and provide AR-enable content remains. This is especially prevalent in government-supported organizations. While private companies can devise the necessary resources, educators and training providers are often stretched for funds.

 

Yet, integrating various technologies, including AR, within educational settings is quite a must-have in all of those settings as it corresponds to the reality we live in today. 

 

Recent research has shown that nearly 53% of kids own mobile phones by the age of seven, the percentage increases rapidly with age, and phone ownership is almost universal once youngsters reach secondary school. This is both the group of people in the current education system and also present and future employees and customers of the business community. So, instead of removing devices from the classroom, we should look for ways to integrate them.

 

In response to technological developments, digital learning is also demanded by governments of most countries. I see a formal push across borders for conventional education providers to tech-up their offer. However, when we look at the requirements for the digitization process, we mostly see vague guidelines with no specific direction on how these educational technologies (EdTech) methods should look or be implemented.

 

Still, the pressure mounts on educators, starting from the council and school boards to the teaching staff. So, who should pick up the slack and start delivering on this digital must,  and what should they bring to the table?

 

I believe the answer lies within the community of publishers who specialize in creating educational content. But neither the educators, nor publishers or tech businesses, can do it alone. Collaboration amongst all of these parties is profound in reviving traditional learning materials and creating new content that adds value. Educators must ensure that the content is correct and meets the needs of their curricula, publishers must be able to produce the materials, and tech companies must work in unison with the first two to deliver solutions that are needed.

 

I hope this article has given you something to think about when considering what tech can boost learning opportunities for your students, employees, children or yourself. I also hope that people who wish to enter the sector and offer tech-enabled educational materials are ready to collaborate with all parties that can contribute to the quality outcome for their idea.

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