Learning through augmented and virtual reality

Augmented and virtual reality are concepts in information technology where a user can supplement their real environment with computer simulated elements or alternatively create a fully virtual environment. Augmented and virtual reality has previously been used for learning purposes in military and medical care and is today applied mainly for the training of technicians.

Together with Smarta Fabriker and Volvo Group AB, the thesis project Learning through augmented and virtual reality has mainly focused on whether the technologies can, or will be able to, influence learning processes and how it will affect the role of educators within the organization. Furthermore, it is investigated in which learning contexts (eg knowledge management, 'onboarding', etc.) the technologies are best suited to be applied, and how any implementation can be done.

The project has involved a qualitative study of the human learning process and how it can be influenced by interactive media such as augmented and virtual reality. A literature study has been conducted on how different individuals learn knowledge or behaviour, and how the role of educator has evolved as learning has become increasingly digitized. Through discussions with academic researchers in learning and successful developers, conclusions have been drawn regarding how Volvo Group AB should position itself for a possible implementation within learning processes.

The work revealed that there are advantages to the technologies for a learning purpose. Empirical studies, based on Kolb's framework (Figure 1), have shown that the medium promotes several different learning styles (specifically, Convergers, those who prefer abstract conceptualization and active experimentation - a learning style traditionally associated with engineers) and that different applications of them ( e.g. specific simulations or less restrictive micro-worlds) should be used for different purposes as they can lead to different results. Thus, it is important for organizations to have a clear goal of what they want to achieve with an implementation.

Figure 1: Kolb's framework of learning types. Source: Alqahtani & Al-Gahtani (2014).

For educators, implementing the technology means that their educational and technical skills would need to be supplemented with new technological knowledge. This is illustrated by the TPACK framework (Figure 2). If interactive virtual environments are used in the context of instructor-led training sessions, there will also be a shift in work tasks, as they need information about design elements and are given the role of mediator between the technology and employees.

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Figure 2: TPACK framework, which describes how educators' role is developed to enable blended learning. Source: http://tpack.org

Furthermore, a comprehensive study has been conducted on previous implementation attempts regarding training of different working groups to identify success factors, and to gain an insight into the possibilities of the current iteration of hardware. Successful empirical implementations in larger companies have shown a time reduction of the retraining process for new employees by 40% and that 70% of the individuals who trained in a VR environment performed better in their practical work tests than control groups. The technologies also offer increased opportunities for organizations to minimize time and resources in logistics and travel, as a virtual education platform can decentralize learning processes.

Furthermore, it has been concluded that, from a cost point of view, incremental integration of the technologies should be beneficial. The technologies need to be integrated with current systems, and the hardware is constantly evolving - a development that is also dependent on other technologies that are under development.

The authors Patrik and Emil


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This article is categorised as Intermediate  |  Published 2018-05-23  |  Authored by Johan Bengtsson