Extended reality and the future of learning

“XR education might be the missing ingredient to producing the sustainable hybrid education model”

Our structural attempt at transitioning over to virtual classes has been mediocre at best during the pandemic, argues Jay Schnoor, COO and co-founder of VEDX Solutions.

Most of the virtual classes lack social dimension and a tangible feel of face-to-face classes. Asynchronous online activities are focused around a recording or various assignments with a forced social element of liking or commenting.

Students are frustrated. Not about the idea of online learning, but more about the content and mode of delivery.

During the Covid pandemic, distance learning has been the safest option, but as learners return to schools, what will we make of the greatest online education investment seen in modern history?

How will institutions maximise their new technological tools? Educators are faced with the greatest opportunities to reform education since the industrial revolution began.

Extended Reality (XR) in education is an excellent—and fun—way to enhance learning. From immersion to gamification, XR can elevate traditional teaching to deliver a better student experience.

XR education might be the missing ingredient to producing the sustainable hybrid education model that will endure and grow with Generation Alpha.

Traditional classroom teaching was developed during the industrial revolution. It relies heavily on passive instructions and frequent assessments focused on facts retention.

Listening to lectures, studying for tests, and visualising concepts from textbooks make up a student’s typical classroom experience. We now have alternatives.

The introduction of XR—the collective term for augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) technologies—allows learners to experience education in more engaging and immersive ways.

XR-based teaching provides training opportunities without pressure or the feeling of being in danger. It also allows repeated opportunities for practice.

To confirm this, the World Bank commissioned a 2021 study on how VR training affects student learning and skills development. The researchers gave the following conclusions:

  • VR training can potentially improve student learning outcomes more than traditional methods.
  • For each added hour of training, students who learned through VR scored 3% more in cognitive assessment tests than those who learned the traditional way.
  • Students who completed VR training reported 20% higher levels of confidence.
  • Students exposed to VR training were 30% more efficient than those who went through the traditional learning method.

Through XR, students are not limited to textbook descriptions or illustrations. They are given a chance to learn subjects by experiencing them with their whole body, virtually, regardless of where they are.

A University of Warwick study in 2018 found that VR surpasses books and videos in information retention. Among their student participants, those who studied using VR showed higher marks in reports and test results.

The researchers said the level of immersion and engagement in VR created a positive learning experience that allowed participants to remember pieces of information.

Another advantage of XR technology is its capability to create personalised learning experiences for students around the globe.

This is possible by accessing analytics data captured by the embedded tracking features of XR devices, such as VR headsets. The movements and interactions of students in XR can indicate attentiveness and engagement.

Teachers can also use the same data to generate predictive insights and figure out how to address learning gaps in individuals or groups. They may tailor lessons to the current learning needs of a student.

Full implementation of XR technology in education is a daunting process at the institutional level.

There are companies emerging to take on this challenge such as VEDX Solutions and Victory XR Academy. They are serving as system integrators to provide VR educational solutions to schools and governments.

For example, VEDX has partnered with the Panamanian government institution IFARHU (Institute for the Training and Use of Human Resources) to create a cost-effective and high-quality alternative to the traditional study abroad English course – an innovative solution combining social spaces, synchronous, and asynchronous online language studies with lessons in VR.

Students reported increased engagement, better knowledge retention and shared that they “really have a lot of fun improving their English.”

It is time for educators, institutions, and curriculum designers to take notice en masse that XR technologies, properly integrated in our curriculum, can drastically alter the hybrid model of virtual learning that is emerging.


About the author: Jay Schnoor is Chief Operating Officer and Co-Founder of VEDX Solutions, a global EdTech firm, which consults, designs, and creates customized XR solution packages for educational institutions and governments.