Extending Reality for Education in 2022

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XR is capturing the attention of educational institutions as they seek new ways to attract students, reduce costs, compete and survive. Ruth Hill, Head of Learning Experiences at Bodyswaps, talks about how access to hardware and expertise makes it a challenge to adopt – and presents the opportunity to help trainers get started.

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

Shaping the future of education

Ever since educational institutions emerged from the constraints of the pandemic, there has been much debate about what the future of education should look like.

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

Video conferencing tools have brought their own challenges. Institutions have struggled to deliver a consistently high-quality education to students with varying and often limited access to broadband and digital devices. And students, who studied from their homes and bedrooms, often had to turn off their webcams for privacy reasons. However, this made it difficult for teachers to build relationships with students whose faces they did not see.

Many felt they were “teaching into the void” which left them “feeling exhausted and stifled their satisfaction as they had no motivation to teach”.

As schools remain closed, students are left out of the social and academic aspects of the physical classroom, and many teenagers and young adults are now expressing deep concerns about their future. Meanwhile, students and teachers often struggled to adapt quickly to online learning and dreamed of the day when schools could return to normal.

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The new technology offers significant opportunities, but challenges remain

Perhaps surprisingly given the challenges faced during the shutdown, now that the world has settled into a “new normal,” a return to business as usual is less popular than previously imagined. Just as in 2022, many workers are not willing to return to the daily commute, in higher education, instead of models led by personal teachers, it is absolutely necessary to move towards a new hybrid pedagogy. One that combines the benefits of online education with face-to-face interactions.

Over time, many teachers and students have realized the benefits of real-time remote interaction. For institutions that have been able to provide access to quality materials and technology, there has been evidence of improved academic performance for 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 university professors feel that online learning is useful, they often lack the expertise to create transformative, forward-looking digital learning resources for themselves.

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

Designing effective digital learning experiences that can transform teaching 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 receive support in this regard. Choosing the right partners is a prudent strategy to provide educational institutions with the expertise and resources needed to quickly assess, design and implement the right solution, but the associated costs can be high.

Strategic investment in the development of innovative, new learning experiences and associated hardware can prove elusive until the benefits are experienced in person. Financial losses during the pandemic and the current cost of living crisis mean that funds are needed elsewhere.

This is where Bodyswap and Meta can help…

New instructional blends that combine traditional teaching methods with innovative tools and methods 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 possibilities offered by our virtual reality simulations – 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 perfect real-world skills in complete psychological safety, with personalized performance feedback driven by artificial intelligence that even human coaches would struggle to replicate.

“I really liked this way of learning”

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

“I enjoyed the interactive aspect of these modules, using the voice function to answer the questions was helpful as it felt like a real conversation.”

Immersive learning is particularly well suited to active, collaborative and social constructivist learning activities. These are much needed by young people whose personal, social and “learning to learn” competencies were neglected during the lockdown because the 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 education and further education institutions across the UK, North America and across much of Europe experience the future of education. Participating institutions will receive unlimited access to Bodyswaps’ entire soft skills learning library for 3 months, as well as a hardware donation of Meta Quest 2 VR headsets.

Historically, pandemics have forced society to break with old habits and reimagine the future, and the COVID-19 pandemic is no exception. In the words of author Arundhati Roy, the pandemic is “a portal, a gateway between one world and another.” This seems a particularly apt metaphor for schools exploring how augmented reality education can provide a holistic and flexible education that prepares young people to succeed in a rapidly changing and diverse new world.

By Ruth Hill, Ph.D., Head of Learning Design, Body Exchange.

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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 apply, visit the Bodyswaps website.

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