Without a doubt, the ongoing global health crisis has caused massive changes to industries across the globe. Apart from subjecting much of the world’s workforce to what can only be considered as the largest remote working experiments the world has ever seen, governments have been left with no choice but to force a lot of educational institutions to shift to distance learning.
During the early months of the pandemic, a lot of nations decided to implement country-wide school closures in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus and keep children out of harm’s way. Based on the latest figures published by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, this decision, which has been shared by over 131 states, has affected over 978.5 million learners globally. In the US, Education Week notes that the closures affected at least 55.1 million students in 124,000 US public and private schools.
According to the executive director of the United Nations Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore, the longer learners remain out of school, the less likely they are to return. To keep this from happening, a lot of countries had to shift to distance learning and rely on cutting-edge technology to facilitate learning. Of all the innovations that have been making online learning possible for educational institutions all around the world, the ones that are making waves include immersive technologies like Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D tech.
We all know the value of “practical experience” when it comes to learning, no matter the field you’re pursuing or at what level. Simulation-based learning, a learning method that “replaces or amplifies real experience with guided experiences” has been used in many fields of study for years. It gives students the chance to have “hands-on” experience without putting them at risk. However, with the transition to distance learning, these practical tests and laboratory experiments have become nearly impossible to implement.
Thankfully, modern technology has stepped in to rectify this, offering simulation-based learning through AR, VR and 3D. Many of the world’s top universities use technology to offer online learners the chance to gain tangible experience in the fields they are studying. For example, students taking Maryville University’s online computer science programs are given access to a state-of-the-art “Cyber Fusion Lab” – a safe environment in which they can complete hands-on exercises with real clients. Similarly, students who have shifted to distance learning at Johns Hopkins University have begun incorporating immersive case-based tele simulations into their curricula to learn how to deal with complex cases.
These are only some of the ways AR, VR and 3D tech can be extremely beneficial to learners pursuing higher education in the midst of the pandemic. The significant benefits of simulation-based learning also extend to younger students, and through AR, VR and 3D, we can bridge the gap between real-world and digital classroom experiences.
Gamification is a technique that has long been used in education due to the numerous advantages it presents. Some of these benefits include promoting physical and cognitive development, improving learner engagement, helping learners to absorb more knowledge and retain it, and as a result a much better overall learning experience. Now that most schools have transitioned into distance learning, gamification has become a struggle for
some educators. Fortunately, they can rely on AR and VR to deliver the same benefits as the traditional ways of gamification in learning, and more.
The Learning Counsel states that educational institutions could become even more adaptive than ever before through game-based learning techniques that are powered by immersive technologies. Unlike textbooks, which have been slow to keep up with the latest educational methods, learnings and theories, games can be updated with new information relatively easily. Games can also be adjusted to become more suited and effective to the students who are using them. This method of learning also eases the burden on educators a little by integrating student-monitoring analysis tools to games, thereby making student assessment a whole lot easier.
When game-based learning techniques such as simulation games are used as an
instructional strategy in tertiary education, it can help students gain real-life experiences and find lessons more engaging. Students also tend to be more receptive to game-based learning techniques because they are more familiar and relatable for them. After all, today’s learners are considered digital natives who have ever-evolving needs that are aligned with the cutting edge technology that is being released.
At the elementary level, game-based learning methods that utilize AR, VR and 3D tech have been helping students appreciate and love geometry. A game that’s been featured in a study published in the International Journal of Art Culture and Design Technologies has
been helping primary school students develop a variety of competencies such as better visualization of geometric objects on a plane and in space, familiarization with the vocabulary of geometry and understanding the properties that make up geometric solids.
In some cases, AR and VR software like BRIO can also be used to take students on a virtual field trip to the pyramids or a tour of the solar system. Such technologies can also allow them to sit front row for a number of major historical events. Universities from across the globe have begun to take advantage of this technology, particularly in light of the restrictions that the global pandemic has caused.
The transition to distance learning may be extremely difficult but it cannot be denied that it is forcing our schools and our institutions to challenge boundaries. This is especially true in the technological front, as education has been lagging behind when it comes to integrating and adopting AR, VR and 3D Tech. The benefits that immersive technologies can offer to education and knowledge delivery are endless, and they could easily go beyond just enabling and improving simulation-based and game-based learning in a few years’ time.
Written by Alisha Christina Kemp