Virtual and Augmented reality has become a new stepping stone in education. They increase student engagement and aid the teachers in cultivating students’ interest in certain subjects via the factor of immersion into an alternative reality. While the two forms of immersive technology are great, which one will dominate the education sector down the line?
VR and AR application in the education sector is not a new phenomenon. There have been a few cases going back to as early as the 2000s, where AR was introduced and has proven to be a handy tool in supporting students’ engagement and learning of certain subjects such as literature. However, the hardware AR technology, as well as the internet, were not as advanced as they are now, yet teaching institutions found a way to utilise the tools and technology they had available.
According to a study by M. Billinghurst and A. Dünser (2012), AR and education have been collaborating even before the 2000s. The paper explores an example of the complementary use of AR in teaching storytelling. Students aged 10 to 14 were shown an AR book version of ‘Giant Jimmy Jones’ by Gavin Bishop. Virtual scenes were overlaid over paper pages, and the experience was enhanced by audio effects, including a soundtrack of the author reading a book. “Teachers then taught the students about narrative, storytelling, graphic design, 3D modelling, and animation using a mixture of whiteboard lessons, print material, and digital technology” (M. Billinghurst and A. Dünser, 2012:44).
Over the course of the experiment, the teachers were highly impressed by how AR technology-enhanced learning in a wide range of aspects. One teacher noted that “[the augmented book technology] provides a multisensory approach to learning that links text, image, sound, and movement and is a highly motivational communication format” (M. Billinghurst and A. Dünser, 2012:45).
The Education sector has been using the same tools and technology for the last decade. The teachers are now finding it difficult to engage and create captivating lessons with only a blackboard and a piece of chalk for a new generation of students of whom 84% own a smartphone (the US data).
This is where VR and AR come to the rescue by providing three main components needed to grip pupils during lessons:
- Be engaging and compelling
- Be intuitive
- Be anchored
The XR technology is slowly becoming a pedagogical medium via its key features of immersion and interactivity. Hence, it is highly engaging and compelling. However, schools are slow to adopt XR in their curriculums due to the costs associated with it. Potential tangible costs include the price of the hardware or a ready-made solution, training sessions for teachers as well as intangible costs such as time.
Still, the accessibility and technological factors between AR and VR make one technology superior to the other.
VR technology requires ownership of the hardware. An Oculus Quest, for instance, is quite costly, especially for parents who would need to invest in the device for their 12-year-old. These people can be hard to convince. Yet, VR can still be used in higher education settings. For example, in medical universities, to practice a surgical procedure or to better the knowledge of students about the nuclear fusion reaction. Even though VR technology is a great tool for educational purposes, it remains a huge investment and compatible instruments are just beginning to thrive.
On the other hand, AR technology only requires a tablet or smartphone for it to be used. It can help to catalyse the introduction of XR technology to the education sector around the world by implementing the ‘bring your own device’ policy. With a few, clicks students can superimpose a virtual object into the real world and interact with it while being grounded to reality. It is clear that AR does not provide the same level of immersion as VR does, but for entry-level education, and certain subjects, it can increase engagement and concentration levels, hence the key goal of education.
Both technologies are breathtaking and serve as great tools for educational purposes. Since we are now living in the third boom of Spatial Computing Technology, VR and AR technologies are becoming more accessible and widely understood.
XR is becoming a new medium for communication and learning. Information diffusion has changed people’s curiosity and needs when interacting with information. Would you rather read about DNA or interact with DNA?