Extending Reality for Education in 2022

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XR is attracting the attention of educational institutions as they seek new ways to attract students, reduce costs, compete and survive. Ruth Hill, Head of Learning at Bodyswaps, discusses how access to hardware and expertise is challenging its adoption – and presents an opportunity to help educators get started.

A Sandwell College student using the Bodyswaps VR platform on a Meta Quest 2 headset practicing interview techniques.

Shaping the future of education

Since educational facilities emerged from pandemic restrictions, there has been much debate about what the future of education should look like.

The sudden need for social distancing during lockdown has forced educators to shift instruction online with little or no time to prepare digital activities and materials in advance. The solution most often took the form of “Emergency Remote Teaching (ERT)” via Zoom, Microsoft Teams or Google Meets, leaving many students and teachers uninspired, unsupported and increasingly frustrated.

Video conferencing tools have brought their own challenges. Institutions have struggled to deliver a uniformly high-quality education to students with disparate and often limited access to broadband and digital devices. And students studying from their homes and bedrooms often needed to turn off their webcams for privacy. However, this made it difficult for teachers to build rapport with students whose faces they had not seen.

Many felt that they were “teaching to nothing”, which left them “feeling exhausted and drained of their satisfaction with no motivation to engage in learning”.

As schools have remained closed, students have missed out on both the social and academic aspects of the physical classroom, with many teenagers and young adults now expressing deep concern for their future. Meanwhile, students and teachers often struggled to adapt quickly to online learning and dreamed of a day when schools could return to normal.

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New technology brings significant opportunities, but challenges remain

Perhaps surprisingly given the challenges that arose during the lockdown, now that the world has settled into a “new normal,” the return to business as usual has proven to be less popular than we previously imagined. Just as many workers in 2022 are still reluctant to return to the daily commute, the imperative in tertiary education has shifted from face-to-face teacher-led models to a new hybrid pedagogy. One that combines the benefits of online learning with face-to-face interactions.

Over time, many teachers and students have realized the benefits of being able to communicate remotely in real time. And for institutions that have been able to provide access to quality materials and technology, evidence has emerged to suggest improvements in the academic performance of some students.

With adequate support, immersive learning technologies can help teachers and students transcend the boundaries of the classroom with new experiences and environments for building communities of inquiry and practice.

While most college faculty believe that online education is useful, they often lack the expertise to create transformative, future-oriented digital learning resources for themselves.

The path to augmented reality in education is not always easy.

Designing effective digital learning experiences with the ability to transform learning practices requires a paradigm shift in pedagogy that requires time, expertise, and resources—to which many educators have limited access.

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However, colleges and universities have support in this regard. Choosing the right partners is a smart strategy to get the expertise and resources that educational institutions need to quickly assess, design and deploy the right solution, but the associated costs can be high.

Strategic investments in the development of innovative new learning experiences and related hardware may prove elusive until the benefits can be experienced first-hand. And the financial losses suffered during the pandemic, together with the current cost of living crisis, mean that funds are needed elsewhere.

This is where Bodyswaps and Meta can help…

New learning blends that combine traditional teaching methods with innovative tools and methodologies offer significant opportunities to transform teaching and learning. At Bodyswaps, we are seeing great enthusiasm from both teachers and students who are excited about the opportunities our virtual reality simulations can provide – and the learning outcomes are proving to be phenomenal.

In recent trials, 87% of students reported enhanced awareness of areas where they could improve. 95% of students said that they would recommend the experience to others and 85% of students reported an improvement in their confidence following completion of the training. 

Our virtual reality solutions provide engaging, immersive simulations where students can practice and hone their skills in the real world in complete psychological safety, with personalized AI-driven performance feedback that even human coaches would struggle to replicate.

“I absolutely loved this way of learning”

“Great! It was a really immersive experience that makes you think.”

“I liked the interactive aspect of these modules, it was useful to use the voice function when answering the questions because it felt like a real conversation.”

Immersive learning is particularly suited to active, collaborative and socially constructivist learning activities. These are sorely needed for young people whose personal, social and ‘learning to learn’ competences have been neglected during lockdown because more widely available ERT technologies could not easily support them.

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In an exciting new partnership announced this week (16 November 2022), Bodyswaps and Meta Immersive Learning will help 100 higher and further education institutions in the UK, North America and most of Europe experience the future of education. Participating institutions will receive 3 months of unlimited access to the full Bodyswaps soft skills learning library along with hardware giveaways of Meta Quest 2 VR headsets.

Historically, pandemics have forced society to break away from old ways and reimagine the future, and the COVID pandemic is no exception. In the words of author Arundhati Roy, the pandemic was “a portal, a gateway between one world and another.” This seems a particularly apt metaphor for schools exploring how augmented reality education could provide a holistic and flexible education that prepares young people to succeed in a rapidly changing and diverse new world.

Ruth Hill, Ph.D., Head of Instructional Design, Bodyswaps.

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Learn more and apply for the Immersive Soft Skills Education Grant

To find out if you are eligible for this exciting opportunity and to apply, go to the Bodyswaps website.

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