How Augmented Reality Can Enhance Learning in Higher Ed

How Augmented Reality Can Enhance Learning in Higher Ed first appeared on on March 28,2014.
Every year seems to bring us new technologies that once fit more neatly into science fiction stories than reality. Augmented reality sounds pretty futuristic, but with the help of mobile technology, it’s made its way into everyday life for some of the population.
With Google Glass, augmented reality technology will likely come to more closely resemble the versions of it people picture from movies and tv shows. In the meantime, it works as an overlay of the picture you see on the screen of your mobile device. Point and click, and the image in front of you (as seen through the screen) changes according to the overlay, or aura, someone’s created for it.
This is definitely one of those concepts better served with a demonstration, so if you’re having any trouble picturing how it works, take a few minutes to review this TED talk that demonstrates it.
Now that we all have a pretty good grasp of it, the technology’s implications on higher education are easy to imagine. Augmented reality can add a level of interaction to any number of items students experience in everyday life. Point, click, and learn something new about that painting in the campus admissions office you’ve passed 1,000 times before – in a way that’s far more memorable and interesting than a descriptive plaque would be.
How to Do It
Clearly, it sounds fun and interesting, but augmented reality doesn’t seem like it would be easy for your average user to create. A couple of companies have worked to make it more accessible to people beyond the super tech savvy: Layar and Aurasma.
Both products provide free apps that anyone can download to start experiencing augmented reality where it’s already been created. They both also provide a product for purchase that allows you to create the experiences yourself.
There are quite a few tutorials online for creating augmented reality experiences, including several made by educators (although mostly in the K-12 space). Some highlights to check out are:
Two Guys and Some iPads – Drew Minock and Brad Wald provide a number of apps on using Aurasma to create overlays, auras, interactive click-throughs and more.
Apps by Paul Hamilton – Paul Hamilton provides by a video tutorial and an iBook focused on using augmented reality in the classroom.
Possible Uses
Augmented reality will likely have more uses in higher education for extending learning outside of the classroom than within it.  You can add additional interactive elements to the texts the students are assigned, adding hyperlinks, audio, or images to their print textbooks.
You could also create interactive assignments that involve moving through campus or the nearby community that help students learn more about your subject through the help of everyday objects around the school. Several schools have created educational games for use in higher education that incorporate a software called ARIS (Augmented Reality and Interactive Storytelling), sending students on missions outside of the classroom to help them practice language learning skills or equivocate managing a toxic spill.
With all the creative minds working in higher education, the possibilities for bringing augmented technology into a student’s learning experiences are vast. Between the novelty of the experience and the level of interactivity required, augmented reality can be a useful tool for encouraging greater student engagement.
Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based copywriter and lifelong student with an insatiable interest in learning and experiencing new things. She turns that interest to researching and exploring innovations and untraditional approaches to education for edCetera.

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