Augmented and Virtual Reality in Education

Whether you admit it or not, education is one of the foundational elements of our society. As such, it is all about sharing and expanding knowledge in the most efficient ways (not necessarily traditional school-college-university path) and we can take advantage of the new technologies to reach the goals. This makes education a perfect case for testing Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality solutions.

While education is treated with utmost seriousness, it is not without its issues, namely the limited availability of educational services and lack of trained personnel. Besides, there is a huge problem with people who have limited physical abilities or who live in places that are hard to reach. Due to all these reasons, implementing AR/VR tech into the education system makes so much sense for us at the APP Solutions. (IMHO.) Let’s talk about it.

How does VR/AR fit in the Education System?

The easiest way to describe the potential impact implementation of VR & AR can make in the education system is to condense it to four words: Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.

The education system needs new technologies in order to stay relevant in the ever-changing world and be effective at realizing its mission. Virtual & Augmented Reality is the next logical step in the evolution of the Education System.

From a business standpoint, VR & AR solutions for education have easily applicable business models, which is always a great selling point.

On one hand, there is no need for figuring out the sustainable business model that will turn into profit in short term. This is completely out of the question because education is a public service and things are regulated rather differently there.

Since figuring out the business model is one of the major problems with AR and especially VR industries, taking it out of the equation leaves much more time to figure out the best possible content. However, that’s where the stakes get extremely high.

There is a lot of responsibility to be assumed in terms of developing a quality AR / VR education content that will effectively serve its cause. Making educational content is much longer and it’s a much more intricate process that requires tight collaboration and flexibility, especially when you deal with kids. Not only there is a need to create accurate content, but it also must be appropriate to a target audience.

It takes more than composing a fine recreation of a body functions to make an immersive VR education process - students and their abilities must be taken into consideration and the content must be adapted to that.

VR/AR Industry and Education

When AR / VR technology meets education, it has the potential to be a win-win situation.

The main challenge in the development of custom VR education application is that you have to create many of the elements from scratch. However, it is possible to create apps that give teachers the ability to construct AR / VR applications for educational purposes from building blocks, using accessible toolboxes and templates.

As a side project, it might also push the wider adoption of the VR and AR technologies among people (since people who are using the latest tech for education usually continue using that tech later in life.)

Virtual Reality Education Statistics

  • 97% of students would like to study a VR course.
  • Education is expected to be the 4th biggest sector for VR investments.
  • VR in education is predicted to be a $200 million industry by 2020 and $700 million by 2025.
  • Almost 80% of teachers have access to virtual reality devices, but only 6.87% use them regularly in the educational process
  • 93% of teachers said that their students would be excited to use virtual reality
  • 7 out of 10 teachers want to use VR to simulate experiences that are relevant to the material covered in class

According to Statista research, 92% of respondents in the USA know the term Virtual Reality: 

Have you ever heard the term virtual reality

When asked, how much people, in general, would be willing to pay for a VR gear:

How much people are willing to spend on VR headset

When asked, how much people are willing to spend on a VR game:

Games and Applications for VR

Education is #4 top result where people see VR gear implemented:

VR Headsets implemented in industries

Benefits of VR in Education and AR in Learning Process

Expanded Teaching Possibilities

One of the biggest issues of the modern education system is the limited ability to describe and exemplify complicated concepts and explain them in a more practical and accessible manner. The current way of explaining things is often hit and miss affair where some students get the point while others are unable to do that due. While this is a lesser challenge in humanitarian sciences, it becomes critical when comes to physics, chemistry, and biology.

Augmented and Virtual Reality education apps can make the process of explaining complicated concepts less challenging by adding an interactive audio-visual factor.

Projects like Augment Education are pushing boundaries of what is possible in this realm. This tool is made for presentations, modeling, and basic 3D design. It is relatively easy to use and can be considered something of a swiss army knife of current AR tools. Augment Education helps teachers and students to try their hand at constructing various objects and animating them via extensive libraries of shapes, objects, and actions.

Inclusivity: A Salvation for Special People

Another thing that can be greatly improved by implementation of VR & AR is inclusivity of the students with various disabilities into the educational process.

For example, solutions like Near Sighted VR Augmented Aid can help students with visual impairments. Among other things, such applications can manipulate the contrasts, text sizes, add audio commentary - which greatly contributes to the integration of the students with disabilities into the community.

On the other hand, VR can be a perfect adaptive environment for students with impairments. Not only it can give them a chance to experience out-of-reach situations but it can be also very practical in the everyday education process.

For example, SignAloud gloves allow to communicate via sign language in a VR environment and translate into a human speech.

Fewer Distractions at VR School

One of the toughest elements of teaching is keeping the attention of the classroom intact and dealing with a variety of distractions. Sadly, the emergence of various technologies such as smartphones, despite their indisputable advantages, made it a lot more difficult. However, there is no particular need to fight with technologies when there is a possibility to embrace it.

Well-orchestrated VR experience can completely shut off the student’s attention from any distracting factors and amp up his concentration on the subject considerably.

Things get better due to immersion and the ability to interact with the environment. Because of that - development of VR School environment is a solid probability in the near future.

Increased Engagement / Immersion via Interactivity

Let’s be honest, many students consider education a chore and teachers are facing the lack of student engagement. It is an evergreen problem that probably will not be fully solved. However, VR & AR can help to deal with this issue by adding a bit of interactivity to the mix.

Here's how it can work. Immersive VR education is by default much more exciting affair than just sitting in a classroom listening to some mildly interesting dude spelling things. There is some action going on. In addition to that, the student can be more active in the process. On one hand, it helps to keep the student focused on the subject while on the other hand, it makes him much more interested in the subject itself because the student can do something with it.

Interactivity is the key reason why VR and AR are so attractive for education purposes.

Today’s typical lessons consist of a lot of listening, lots of taking notes and some looking at something while filling the gaps with critical thinking and imagination. This is not exactly the most endearing experience as well as kinda boring, especially if you don’t really care about the subject. Enter VR.

Virtual Reality gives an opportunity to experience the subject up and front. As such, this kind of experience is much more compelling and effective in delivering knowledge than a traditional lecture.

For example, you can experience first-hand the life of an Egyptian farmer or participate in the Battle of Waterloo alongside Napoleon. You can also virtually travel to various countries instead of just looking at the map and finding the small dot that is Fiji. Granted, it would be a re-created story, but hey, it’s much more interesting than just looking in the books.

Finally, when we’re comparing virtual and augmented realities, VR can deliver the wholesome experience, AR can take a more supplementary role in the educational process, so both can be very useful.

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We developed our own AR Navigation app - AR Places Map. It is designed specifically to simplify movement in the city and navigate in the different leisure opportunities. You can read about it here.

Features include:

  • Locations of interest (restaurants, cafes, and other points of interest) on the map and in Augmented Reality mode
  • Information about restaurants, art galleries, parks, and more
  • Navigation and direction to the points of interest

Download AR Places Map on Apple App Store

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VR/AR Challenges

The Question of Cost Effectiveness

Considering that education is usually government-funded affair, the cost-effectiveness of implementing AR/VR technologies is the question that arises most often. (Granted, we’re not just talking about school education, but also professional training - for example, for surgeons.)

While a virtual reality education platform can be a great help in the learning process, here are the things that you should take into account when calculating the costs:

  1. You will need to invest into gear to make the VR solution available (helmet or glasses + controllers). Thankfully, there are budget options available that are quite good (for example, Google Cardboard). A business analyst can help you figure out what things the gear should be able to do and then it’s up to you and your investors.
  2. You will need to invest in the actual AR/VR content development. While there are solutions that come with building blocks (that you can assemble in whatever way you need), some special training might require starting the development from scratch.
  3. You will need to invest time (and possibly money) into training your teachers how to operate the gear properly so that they are fully prepared to teach the students.

Compared to Virtual Reality, AR solutions are cheaper because you don’t need specific gear. All your student needs is a smartphone. However, you still need to develop the content for the app.

In the long run, if implemented properly, VR/AR solutions can pay off greatly in a form of highly trained professionals ready for action and other benefits of AR / VR in education are obvious. It can have an incredible impact both for the system itself and for the technology as both of them adapt to the new status quo and develop new models of operations.

The Question of Content Development

One of the biggest roadblocks for wide implementation of VR and AR solutions in the educational process is purely practical - it takes a lot of effort (both on developers and educators’ sides) to create quality AR/VR content that will cover the needs of the educational programs.

There are several reasons for content being a challenge:

  • Basic VR & AR tools available on the wide market aren’t sufficient enough to produce engaging content. They can be used as a supplement but not as a substitute;
  • Teachers can’t do immersive experiences on their own which means there is a need for hiring outsourced developers.
  • Finally, there is still the need to adjust the content to the target audience feedback.

There are ready-made AR solutions like Human Anatomy Atlas and Sky Map on the market and you need to define what goals you want to reach using the technology. Perhaps, the ready-made solutions will be more than enough or you will understand what is the feature that you’re lacking and develop additional apps. Everything is up to you (and your board of investors.)

The Question of Health

Virtual Reality impact on mental and physical health hasn’t been widely studied. On one hand, it’s due to the fact that the technology is comparatively new; on the other hand, it’s not as widespread yet so there’s not enough data for research.

The question that gets asked by many: “How can you rely on a certain technology if you have only a vague idea of how it can affect physical and mental health?” This is a serious issue with adults and the matters double down when it comes to children.

Granted, we’ve seen the mass “epidemic” of Pokemon hunters and they seemed to be fine unless the players got so engrossed into the game they forgot that there is a real world besides their virtual or augmented one, with cars, roads, trees, and other dangers. Case in point, Johnny English demonstrates this issue perfectly:

In Conclusion

Both Virtual and Augmented reality technologies offer numerous exciting opportunities for an education system that can be instrumental in solving its key challenges and bringing to a new level of quality.

With the technologies rapidly developing and expanding its availability - it is more of a question of time when they will be considered as a viable option with its own distinct value.

Develop the AR/VR Solution for Education with us

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Volodymyr Bilyk

Content Manager