Education becomes the 3rd biggest sphere for extended reality (XR) investment, according to Statista. Its rapid growth is expected to allow 70 million students to enrich their learning process by 2021. XR is one of the most expected trends in the sphere of education because it can turn theoretical information into an actual experience, extending learning and teaching practices. Let’s take a closer look at XR technologies and their potential benefits and application in education.
What Is Extended Reality?
Extended reality (XR) is used as an umbrella term to identify technologies that merge the physical and virtual worlds to create an engaging, immersive experience. It includes augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR):
- AR adds virtual objects to the material world. You might have used AR already in such apps as IKEA Place, Pokémon Go, or Snapchat.
- VR allows you to immerse yourself in simulated virtual settings. Unlike in the case with AR, you become isolated from the real world. Yet, you get a full-blown digital experience with VR headsets. It can immediately take you to another location, time, or space.
- MR creates a hybrid environment where you can interact with virtual objects in the real world, combining the elements of AR and VR.
When some XR technologies require the use of specific software and hardware supporting sophisticated graphics, there are also cheap and even free XR options available with the help of AR glasses, headsets, smartphones, and tablets. This allows educators to use XR in the “new normal” distance learning environment. Schools are in dire need of new effective teaching methods that can compensate for the absence of in-person classes. With the right vision and strategy, XR is the future of education.
The Use of Extended Reality in Education
XR can find multiple applications in modern educational institutions. It enables learning by doing, offering risk-free training designed to develop skills for a specific industry. For example, due to the immersive learning experience, XR classroom kits can be useful in teaching future medical professionals hard-to-conceptualize terms and concepts. Students can perform virtual surgeries with different realistic scenarios. It is a much more effective way to accelerate the understanding of complex subjects than the presentation of videos or written case studies. Besides, students can explore the human body with its different systems, using the models in XR.
Another way to use XR in the classroom is to have virtual field trips. A lesson about Mars can be much more engaging and comprehensive when students can travel there and explore the landscapes by themselves. The examples of possible field trips themes are numerous: from visiting ancient civilizations to discovering the far corners of our planet. Moreover, students can take tours of world-famous museums and galleries with the interactive functionality of XR. It empowers geography, history, biology, astronomy, and art classes. XR headsets can recreate a virtual version of any location, allowing students to discover various destinations without leaving the classroom.
When it comes to STEM subjects, XR technologies allow students to work in virtual labs. They can try different tests and experiments in a safe environment. Students become active investigators, which prepares them for the best job for college students. XR is an effective tool that can improve learning outcomes and ensure better comprehension and information retention. This leads to the easy acquisition of durable skills.
Advantages of Extended Reality in the Classroom
XR creates a first-person experience that helps students to learn the material and retain knowledge for a long period of time. For example, VR-based education allows students to improve their test results by 27.4%. XR makes new material compelling and demonstrative, which activates different sensory organs and, as a result, different areas of the brain. Thus, students are able to commit information to long-term memory.
Students are more motivated to learn when the learning process is fun and entertaining. XR technology also serves for gamification of education. It is a way to foster students’ interest in classes as they can interact with the virtual environment and make discoveries. As a result, students can get new insights and satisfaction from the process. Moreover, the features of XR make education more inclusive, allowing people with special needs to access the environment they will not interact within the physical world.
XR makes empirical training more accessible and affordable. The technology can reproduce working environments typical for different industries and offer a number of possible scenarios. It teaches students how to find solutions to problems without any risks to human health, working process, or equipment. When students experience challenging or stressful situations in virtual reality, they build confidence in a safe and economically-effective setting. Therefore, they acquire the necessary skills and become prepared to act in real-life situations.
XR is a multibillion-dollar industry, which rapidly develops and impresses people with its features. As surveys show, 97% of students would be happy to incorporate XR into their curriculum. The interest in these technologies, alongside the benefits it can bring to both students and educators, make XR a top priority and trend for the next year.