XR technology tools are being adopted in universities as professors strive to provide students with immersive learning opportunities that increase engagement, teach complex concepts, and provide a safe space to practice skills.
Extended Reality (XR) encompasses Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) technologies. These technologies are becoming mainstream in the ways we work, play, and learn. Integrating innovative XR technology tools helps universities better serve students of all skill levels and abilities – making learning more immersive and exciting.
While many universities see the benefits of integrating XR into their curriculum, navigating how to implement and utilize it can be challenging. Let’s look at 7 XR technology tools you can add to your courses. Then, we’ll review the benefits and challenges of integrating them.
What is XR?
XR refers to the blending of physical and digital worlds with AR, VR, and MR technologies. A Grand View Research report estimates the AR market to be worth $340 Billion by 2028 as it becomes a fundamental part of our workplaces and learning environments. XR is already becoming mainstream in various industries. These include architecture, healthcare, art, business, engineering, and more.
Integrating these immersive technologies is helping workplaces and schools become more efficient and inclusive. Improvements in technology create even more opportunities to use XR to enhance learning. Universities, in particular, are finding unique and exciting ways to use XR.
7 XR Technology Tools for University Professors
360-Degree Video Lessons
360-degree video gives viewers a complete view of their surroundings. The effect comes from a collection of cameras recording in different directions from a central point. This creates an engaging, active video experience, requiring learners to look around and explore the virtual space.
It also allows students to feel absorbed by their environment. For example, linguistics students studying the French language and culture can view a 360º video of Paris to discover the sights, sounds, and ambiance of the culture’s environment.
Virtual Tours and Field Trips
Virtual tours are simulations of a location, such as a museum or national park, using a sequence of still images or video. They’re often accompanied by narration or text to guide the “visitor” through the location. Virtual tours and field trips allow students to explore faraway places in an engaging, accessible way.
Students explore their interests and become immersed in their learning experience by traveling in VR. For example, history students can take a virtual tour of the Roman Colosseum, or art students can tour the Louvre. Virtual field trips are also used for language students, allowing them to visit other countries for a more immersive experience in the environment where the language is spoken.
VR Learning Modules
VR modules utilize a headset to immerse students in a completely virtual world. Going through a lesson in VR keeps students engaged and allows them to learn complex concepts at their own pace. A study at the University of Sydney surveyed students following a unit of learning in VR and found 71.5% of students said VR enhanced their learning outcomes.
VR modules can also include gamification, quizzes, and simulations for a more engaging learning experience. In Edstutia’s VR campus, professors can learn to integrate VR lessons into their curriculum.
A VR simulation uses VR technology to mimic a life-like situation. VR simulations provide an immersive, hands-on experience for students to apply what they’re learning in class. While book learning is crucial in education, reading on a complex topic or process can only go so far. By utilizing VR to practice skills, students have a safe space to experiment with different outcomes and avoid the stress of making mistakes in real life.
For example, medical and nursing programs at many universities utilize Oxford Medical Simulations. These simulations allow students to practice medical procedures in VR before performing them on real patients. With platforms like TeachLive, education students can go through simulations in a classroom environment to learn how to handle high-stress situations. Overall, simulations help students feel prepared to encounter challenging situations in their future careers.
Professors can also create unique simulations customized to their course. Edstutia’s Instructor Certification in XR (ICXR) program gives professors the knowledge and tools they need to create engaging simulations for students.
3D Models in AR
University programs in engineering, architecture, medicine, and more utilize interactive 3D models in AR to teach complex concepts. For example, Colorado State University’s distance human anatomy class uses Clapp Lab. This VR application allows students to dissect and explore human bodies at the microcellular level. 87% of students who have taken the class say it has helped them understand spatial relationships as opposed to 2D resources.
Complex mathematics problems are challenging to visualize with simple blackboard lessons, especially in remote classes. AR helps mathematics students overcome these challenges. For example, students learning vector geometry can view geometric models in AR to enhance the visualization of three-dimensional problems. 3D models in AR allow students to better conceptualize and experiment with intricate structures than traditional teaching methods.
Students can create and interact with prototypes in AR. For example, engineering students can create realistic models of a product in AR and experiment with modifications. Architecture students can create an AR sketch of a space they’re creating for a project and actually walk through it. Prototyping in AR reduces the cost of resources or materials required to create a real prototype. Because students can also re-create as many prototypes as they want in AR, professors utilizing this immersive technology for prototyping are reducing waste of materials.
A strategy to encourage students to utilize XR technology tools is to allow them to develop projects in XR. Whether they’d like to create an XR review module, a prototype, or utilize XR simulations as part of a project, professors can get students excited about using XR by providing them with the necessary hardware and software and encouraging them to use it. This is especially important for professors in areas like engineering and architecture, as their students are bound to encounter XR in their future careers.
Benefits of Using XR Technology in Higher Education
XR technology tools increase students’ engagement in their learning by providing complete immersion in the lesson material. Students get excited about utilizing emerging technologies that offer a new, stimulating way to learn—leading to better learning outcomes and efficiency. A study by the World Bank Group found that VR improved student learning outcomes and students exposed to XR were 30% more efficient than those who weren’t.
Adaptive Learning with XR Technology Tools
Every student learns differently, and providing XR technology tools can help them learn at their own pace. For example, students can go through a VR learning module at their own speed or repeat VR simulations until they understand the material. This puts less stress on students, especially when learning complex concepts, and allows them to take ownership of their learning.
Students in the World Bank Group study who completed VR training also reported 20% higher confidence levels. The likely cause is that XR technology tools provide a safe space for students to make mistakes. VR simulations, for example, allow students to explore different outcomes and make mistakes without real-world consequences. Practicing skills in VR is especially beneficial for students in areas like medicine and engineering, where making mistakes in the real world could be disastrous. A study at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine found VR training improved surgical performance by 230%.
Cost and Time Savings
Organizing student activities, such as labs, prototype-building, simulations, and field trips, can be costly and time-consuming. The beauty of XR technology is the ability to experiment, travel, and collaborate from the comfort of students’ homes or classrooms. By eliminating the need for real-life materials and resources, XR reduces the cost and time required to create an immersive learning experience.
By popular demand following the COVID-19 pandemic, many university programs continue offering hybrid or entirely virtual learning. In fact, a post-pandemic survey of students found that 82% wanted at least some of their course meetings to take place online, and 41% preferred fully-online learning.
University professors are being challenged to develop an engaging virtual learning curriculum for remote students. XR technology tools are being integrated in higher education as professors strive to provide remote students with immersive learning experiences. XR learning experiences, such as group prototyping in VR, can also help bridge the gap between remote students and their classmates by providing a collaboration space.
Challenges of Implementing XR Technology Tools
The most common challenges of implementing XR technology tools in the classroom are cost, hardware, and content. If your institution isn’t already investing in XR, acquiring all the necessary tools to get started can be costly. However, XR technology can save universities money in the long run by reducing the cost of real-life materials, resources, and travel. It’s important to advocate for XR technology at your institution so you can begin leveraging these powerful learning tools for their long-term benefits.
Universities looking to adopt XR want to provide students with easy access to technology. Understanding the necessary hardware, computers for rendering sophisticated graphics, and software development platforms can be an obstacle. It’s beneficial to bring an IT expert into the equation or partner with other teaching organizations successfully using XR.
Seeing the value in XR for learning isn’t a barrier for professors. However, navigating how to utilize and implement it can be. Many professors who have never dabbled in XR technologies can feel overwhelmed by learning how to use them, create content, and successfully integrate them into their curriculum.
XR Technology Tools: Wrap-Up
XR technology is a powerful tool for immersive and adaptive learning in universities. Professors implementing these XR technology tools provide students with an engaging, interactive learning experience that allows them to safely practice their skills and prepare for the workforce. When adopting XR into your curriculum, it’s crucial to understand how to leverage this technology for your students’ specific needs.
Edstutia’s ICXR program teaches you how to integrate immersive technologies in your curriculum, even helping you design a custom XR-enhanced learning module for your students. Learn about our ICXR program and how Edstutia can help you apply XR technology tools in your classroom.