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Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the Classroom

Although there are many ways to engage students and encourage their participation in a class, two fascinating technologies come to mind: augmented reality and virtual reality. Augmented reality and virtual reality are not new technologies, but their use in higher education has been limited. By learning how to use these technologies, instructors may find themselves with a classroom of students eager to learn.

What Is Augmented Reality?

Microsoft describes augmented reality (AR) as “an enhanced, interactive version of a real-world environment achieved through digital visual elements, sounds, and other sensory stimuli via holographic technology.”

Augmented reality combines both the physical and digital worlds, creating an immersive experience for its users. Students who use this technology seem to be very enthusiastic and even look forward to using it again. For example, students enjoy using AR for virtual field trips and lab simulations, learning a new language, or even visiting another country.

Related: ChatGPT and Its Use by Non-Traditional College Students

Advantages and Disadvantages of AR

According to QuantumERA VP Steve Wagner, there are quite a few benefits of using AR in the classroom, such as:

  • Increased content understanding
  • Learning spatial structure and function
  • Learning language associations
  • Long-term memory retention
  • Improved performance of physical tasks
  • Improved collaboration
  • Increased student motivation

However, there are also a few disadvantages to using AR. For example, it can be costly, and it requires expertise.

In addition, AR devices must be compatible with smartphones, headsets, and tablets. Also, they must be accessible and affordable for both educators and learners.

Related: AI in Higher Education: Aiding Students’ Academic Journey

Virtual Reality’s Advantages and Disadvantages

As Microsoft explains, virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making users feel they are immersed in their surroundings. Unlike augmented reality, VR usually requires the user to wear a headset and headphones to become engaged in their environment.

The benefits of virtual reality include:

  • Improved learning outcomes
  • Enhanced student engagement
  • Improved knowledge retention
  • Better interpersonal skills such as empathy, collaboration and social skills that students will need for the future

Like augmented reality, there are some disadvantages to using VR. As journalist Paula Hicks explained, virtual reality’s disadvantages involve its high cost, lack of flexibility, addiction to the technology and accessibility for both students and their instructors.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality Can Be Highly Effective Learning Tools

With students facing constant distractions such as their social media sites and smartphones, holding students’ interest in a classroom can be challenging for instructors. Instructors need to make sure that students stay engaged during class time so that their learning is not impeded. By incorporating both augmented reality and virtual reality in classrooms, colleges and universities would probably see an increase in student engagement and learning would be fun for all involved.

Dr. J. Chris Brown is an adjunct instructor in the information technology program at the University. He holds a bachelor of science in information technology with an emphasis in multimedia and visual communication from the University of Phoenix, a master of information systems from the University of Phoenix, and a doctor of education in organizational leadership with an emphasis in higher education leadership from Grand Canyon University. Dr. Brown has over 17 years of web design experience and his research interests include adult learning, e-learning, and technology in the classroom.

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