Online: Trending Now

Unique biweekly insights and news review
from Ray Schroeder, Senior Fellow at UPCEA

VR and AR Online

Online: Trending Now #132

One of the challenges we face in teaching online is bringing “reality” into our classes. The potential of virtual reality and augmented reality in online courses is enormous. Especially in online learning, these technologies promise to enable us to bring the laboratory, geography, cultures, and communities to reality for those who are not on campus. The possibilities are powerful. These technologies take the distance out of distance learning:

With the advanced technologies, computers and tablets, more opportunities have been revealed. And now, VR is letting people to actually experience historical places or planets like it’s never done before. For educators, VR offers a chance to free students from the confines of school desks, exams, chairs and rote memorization, this helps to improve their learning, via active presence and experience.  

An important step has been taken to advance the potential of producing VR and AR projects and modules for higher education. Amazon has put a stake in the future with the release of Sumerian – VR/AR development tool that is platform agnostic. This is software as a service, so institutions need only pay for the hours they use it rather than purchasing a large license. And, much of it is drag and drop with simplified coding. 

As educational theorist John Dewey established long ago, effective learning is experiential (Dewey, 1938) — and VR provides a direct method by which that can be realized. VR technology is still evolving and moving more into mainstream, particularly with mobile technology, buts its effectiveness in regular classrooms and with online students is still being realized. As with simulation technology, many difficult and “risky” training experiences (such as those in medical and military practice) can be learned virtually through VR. That means that the cost of the training can be lessened, along with the potential risk of actual situations. Additionally, students can experience places and situations in the world they could not otherwise experience, and enrich their learning experience as a result. In regular classrooms, however, which are bound to text-driven curricula and test-driven outcomes, it will take longer to integrate VR and, ultimately, it will take longer for us to become more aware of the technology’s effectiveness in the learning process overall.

The field of VR and AR is developing so rapidly that the Director of Quality Matters, Deb Adair, says, “We don’t even know what we don’t know yet,”… Quality Matters, a consortium of institutions and publishers that places quantitative measures on online learning methods and products. Still, she said, VR and AR are on QM’s radar, and the experience of going through the motions in the classroom would be helpful. 

Emerging digital technologies such as AR are now being considered in complex, subtle and thoughtful ways by teachers.  While considering the technology, pedagogy and content influencing their choices, teachers are also considering the contexts in which they are working. These considerations are helping teachers to make choices other than just PowerPoint when it comes to the inclusion of technologies in their teaching practice. 

Now is the time ask ourselves when do we plan to become AR/VR developers? What areas of our curriculum are best served by virtual or augmented reality. How can we leads our peers in this area? And, where is this leading?

Of course, I will continue to track the developments in MOOCs, emerging trends, technologies, pedagogies and practices in continuing and professional higher education and share them with you through Professional, Continuing and Online Education Update blog by UPCEA. You can have the updates sent directly to your email each morning  – no advertising, no spam!

Best,
 
Ray Schroeder
Director
National Council for Online Education

A man (Ray Schroeder) is dressed in a suit with a blue tie and wearing glasses.

Ray Schroeder is Professor Emeritus, Associate Vice Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) and Senior Fellow at UPCEA. Each year, Ray publishes and presents nationally on emerging topics in online and technology-enhanced learning. Ray’s social media publications daily reach more than 12,000 professionals. He is the inaugural recipient of the A. Frank Mayadas Online Leadership Award, recipient of the University of Illinois Distinguished Service Award, the United States Distance Learning Association Hall of Fame Award, and the American Journal of Distance Education/University of Wisconsin Wedemeyer Excellence in Distance Education Award 2016.

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