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Using Augmented Reality in Higher Education: Benefits and Challenges

Yura Velichko
27 Jan 2022
6 min
Using Augmented Reality in Higher Education: Benefits and Challenges

Augmented reality in university education is changing the way students learn. Studies show that AR improves motivation and increases attention by nearly a third. What’s more, it opens up endless teaching opportunities for universities, such as distance learning and interactive classes.

In this article, we’ll guide you through the main benefits, challenges, and use cases of AR in higher education. 

What is augmented reality (AR)?

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Augmented reality (AR) is an interactive, three-dimensional experience in which a person can see an enhanced version of the real world with added sounds and visual elements. Augmented reality uses hardware such as sensors, processors, and input devices, as well as remote servers. These servers render and store data from virtual images. 

There are three types of AR apps:

  • Marker-based apps. These AR solutions require a static image to trigger additional content such as videos and animations.
  • Markerless apps. These apps work by scanning the surrounding environment.
  • Location-based apps. This type of app relies on GPS to identify the user’s location.

AR creates opportunities to explore 3D models and add more detail to the world around us. This can make lessons more interesting and engaging and improve the overall quality of university education.

The benefits of augmented reality in higher education

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Continuous practice and immersive learning are key to ensuring a top-quality university education. Augmented reality offers benefits that support both of these things.

  • Practical learning. Augmented reality as a teaching tool in higher education lets teachers organize educational field trips without leaving the lecture hall. The SkyView app is one example. Students can explore the stars, constellations, satellites, and planets just by pointing their mobile devices at the sky. 
  • Higher motivation. AR allows students to interact with what they learn and “experience” what they’re studying in the world around them. This helps learners get the most out of lectures. 
  • Faster access to learning materials. Students can access educational materials on the go. The Mondly AR app, for example, helps users learn a new foreign language whenever and wherever they want.
  • Improved distance learning. Teachers can set gamified tasks and organize virtual explorations or practice sessions even if their students are at home. All students need are their mobile devices.
  • A lower entry barrier (compared to VR). Augmented reality doesn’t require special equipment like VR headsets, which are often beyond the budget of college students. Instead, students just need to download an AR app to their mobile devices to be able to study from anywhere.

In summary, augmented reality improves the teaching process for both professors and students by changing the way classes are organized and knowledge is acquired.

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    The challenges of integrating augmented reality in university education

    If the advantages of AR are so clear, why is AR adoption still lagging in higher education? The answer is that there are still a few challenges to overcome. 

    • A lack of training. AR apps can’t be used without training, which increases the cost and time needed for adoption. However, mobile app and device usage is on the rise for Generations Z and Y, and the number of AR app users is also steadily increasing.   What’s more, the number of active AR app users is expected to reach 2.4 billion in 2023. These trends show that a lack of training may be only a temporary challenge to AR adoption. 

    Despite the challenges, investing money in creating an AR app will pay off development expenses and provide a better level of education in times of lockdown. 

    AR in higher education: the top 3 use cases 

    Experiential learning through virtual and augmented reality in higher education empowers students to learn new skills through interaction. 

    Let’s take a closer look at how AR is transforming studying.

    Distance learning

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    COVID-19 changed the way students study for degree programs. In 2021, around 37% of US learners chose online education because it was the only available option. 

    Can augmented reality improve the quality of distance learning? Definitely.

    Think of an app where professors can teach science by organizing their own online workshops with the help of AR. CoSpaces and 3DBear are two examples of development platforms designed for distance learning. These AR apps allow tutors to organize common virtual workspaces and provide immersive lessons, training sessions, and tours.

    Classroom teaching

    Augmented reality can also turn a regular class or lecture into an engaging learning experience by using gamification and virtual images to support textbook materials. Experience Real History (ERH) is one example. With this AR app, students learn about the Battle of the Alamo in 1836 in a fun and interactive way.

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    When it comes to teaching machinery, XR LearnHub is another option. This AR app helps students put machining theory into practice through real-time scenarios and interactions with 3D models.

    Practical skills

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    Students can improve their practical skills with augmented reality in a wide range of fields. Here are some examples:

    • Anatomy. Examining the human body is more efficient with AR. Apps like the Human Anatomy Atlas let learners study physiology, anatomy, and pathology in a way today’s hospital doctors could only have dreamt of. The Atlas includes 3D models of organs and systems that make it easy for students to understand how the body works.  
    • Surgery. AR can be used for practicing surgical procedures on virtual patients. Take Touch Surgery, for example. This AR app lets students practice surgery virtually before they are ready to deal with cadavers or take risks with real patients. 
    • Music. Learning how to play a musical instrument is also possible with AR. With the AR Pianist app, students can practice their favorite songs and receive feedback from teachers and friends.  
    • Engineering. AR allows learners to visualize and interact with engineering designs. Mechanical Engineering One, for example, is an augmented reality app designed for everyday use by engineers and students. 
    • Science. Visualizing and mastering complex scientific concepts is another interesting application of AR. Science AR is an AR app that helps children interactively explore blood cells and DNA.

    These are just a few of the many use cases of augmented reality in university education. With the AR mobile market valued at $9.5 billion in 2021 and the pandemic still at large, we can expect to see more examples of learning apps like these.

    Get the most out of augmented reality in higher education

    The number of AR users is predicted to reach 4.3 billion in 2025, meaning that virtual and augmented reality in higher education have a bright future. With AR, educational institutions can improve distance, classroom, and practical learning and make it more exciting and engaging.

    If you’re looking to leverage the exciting potential of AR technology for higher education, you’ve come to the right place. Postindustria has more than 14 years of software development experience and was one of the first companies to bring an AR-based showroom-style experience to mobile devices. We know how to deliver a high-quality AR development service tailored to your needs. Drop us a line and let’s start improving education together!

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