AR/VR ushers a new form of education amid pandemic isolation

Undoubtedly, Zoom’s stock performed at its peak during the virus outbreak and brought the most successful IPO for 2020. However, to effectively digitally replicate reality, taking a step beyond videotelephony and online chat appears essential amid pandemic isolation.

According to CB Insights – 14 Tech Trends To Watch Closely In 2020, the advances done in Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) will reshape where and how we interact. These new-age technologies have long remain niche as it has been met with mass-adoption challenges, but in the midst of coronavirus lockdown, AR/VR tech companies reported a demand increase. Statista informs that the AR/VR global market is expected to increase by 2022 to $209b. The promising silver lining for these technologies assessed for too long as a ‘laggard technology with bulky hardware and technical glitches’ conjures a look at its applicability to education systems in today’s coronavirus-induced lockdown.

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Educational institutions worldwide reduce disruption in education through AR/VR

Innately, AR/VR technologies were used as a form of whimsical escapism through the entertainment industry, but their applicability expanded over manufacturing, real estate, military, healthcare, retail industries. Furthermore, these past months AR/VR minimized the disruption in the education industry induced by the coronavirus and fostered lifelike community learning remotely.

The term panic-gogy (panic + pedagogy) emerged as a methodology that aims to respond to student concerns amid lockdown while considering students’ practicalities of physical readiness and limitations (Kamenetz, 2020).

Universities worldwide took steps towards AR/VR to fitly alleviate these concerns about current and future lockdowns affecting their learning. The University of Carolina enabled students to convene in a virtual space where they could debate in groups next to assigned virtual whiteboards instead of watching hours of a recording. Case Western Reserve University uses the HoloAnatomy app to enable students to learn about the human body from their own homes. The Ministry of Education of Argentina stipulates a virtual reality section on its educational portal to provide students with immersive educational experience with the 360-degree format.

Who builds AR/VR for education?

Few noteworthy AR/VR system options available in the market are poised to offer classroom controls and/or education content management. The Google Expeditions app and Google Cardboard viewer provides panoramic pictures to support history, science, art, and natural world themes. ClassVR is the first fully dedicated end to end classroom VR & AR system. It comes with a standalone AR/VR headset, storage and charging unit, classroom management, and control portal, and teachers’ ability to upload their own content. EON Reality enables teachers to create their own VR content and skills transfer for entrepreneurs.

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Benefits of AR/VR in education

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits relevant today.

Faster comprehension of complex concepts

Through repetition is how the human brain typically learns when reading. But the 4th Industrial Revolution estimates that 90% of today’s jobs will be different in the future. This makes reskilling and upskilling speed more needed than ever and implicitly our learning capacity for jobs of tomorrow. According to Edgar Dale’s cone of experience, we learn faster through experience as we retain 90%, rather than 10% as we do through reading. Through immersive educational experience, AR and VR technologies have the highest chance to offer that today.

Foster engagement

With today’s ubiquitous smartphone, the battle for student’s focus is ever-present. With a headset around their eyes, however, the smartphone reduces its salience as the immersive experience is bound to stimulate students fully.

Personal development

Oftentimes we are confronted with phobias. The fear of public speaking is the most common one, even ahead of death. Imagine if before even being confronted with the actual event, you get to experience the public, the stage, and speaking to it in a safe environment by fully immersing yourself in an AR/VR rendered experience simulating the actual environment. Leveraging on its sensory immersion capability will help build a solid, unshakable foundation in handling emotions, anxiety, and naturalize own public speaking demeanor. At the moment the event will happen, it will much faster feel normal since you had lived that moment countless times before.

With a cornucopia of benefits in terms of community building, customization, and gamification of teaching, at the affluent end, we have just as many perks to further evaluate such as student health impact in case of long-term exposure, emotional well-being, maintainability, and affordability. The latter invites more effort to ensure affordable access to knowledge in poor regions. Access to higher education remains affordable among privileged and technology; easing this access may intensify the inequality gap furthermore.

Future impact AR/VR may have on education

As lifelong learning is an economic imperative, the current lockdown nor future ones should bring education to a standstill. Looking ahead, with AR/VR becoming more prevalent, we may have to imagine AR/VR-literate professors producing educational content for AR/VR driven classroom. The public and private educational institutions may need to embed AR/VR lessons as part of their mainstream curriculum. Students may experience a change in how they retain and apply knowledge. While contentious, considering the multi-experience technology trend for 2020 described by Gartner, we may imagine people-literate technology such as robots being able to teach on-demand the students of tomorrow.

Will the AR/VR match Zoom’s accessibility characteristics? Will post-pandemic education surge in usage of AR/VR? And ultimately, with the great strides made in 5G accessibility, AI (Artificial Intelligence) intuitive applicability, and ease of content creation, does AR/VR have sufficient foundation laid out to change its fate towards a significant uptake?

Regardless of the winning technology, education incumbents may have to consider alternative models. As Kim Cofino, a Technology and Education consultant, said, “Live with technology the way students live with technology.”

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