How AR technology is empowering educators and students across Europe

Eirik G. Wahlstrøm, co-founder and CEO of Ludenso explores the technological progress that has made AR-activated content more accessible than ever.
How AR technology is empowering educators and students across Europe

Despite much talk about a revolution in Europe’s EdTech industry, very little has changed in Europe over the past decade — until now. We witnessed the transition from chalkboards to whiteboards to smart boards. But for the most part, traditional educational media, namely textbooks, have remained firmly in place. 

Now, emerging technologies like augmented reality (AR), artificial intelligence (AI), and virtual reality (VR) are realising the benefits of the future classroom. They provide the possibility of a more inclusive learning experience, through increasing student engagement and memory retention, making learning more accessible to students who learn in different ways. 

Standard textbooks served their purpose for decades. They allow students to ascertain a deeper understanding of subjects and shape how teachers communicate ideas to their students. However, in an advanced society populated by technologically adept students, we should adapt the existing methods to improve the learning experience where necessary.

Whilst they were once limited to a ‘one size fits all’ approach, containing only a small portion of what students could and should expect from an education today, technological advancements within the right context can now enable textbooks to once more change the way teachers and students alike consume and communicate information about the world around them. Using AR technology gives structured access to information in a pedagogically sound way. 

In an age where society has access to tools that can equip students for a world dominated by AR and AI, we’re seeing countries view technology as a distraction rather than a tool. Finding the balance between old and new offers a way for society to create an inclusive learning environment for both teachers and students alike. 

The case for AR-activated classrooms

AR-integrated learning materials offer a variety of exciting benefits to educational environments. From interactive 3D models of human organs to animated asteroids, AR can turn print textbooks into living, breathing wells of educational material. 

Students can continue to learn in a way that they’re used to – by reading passages of text – while also experiencing the additional benefits of digital media. They could witness a historical event unfold in an immersive experience or navigate a human brain in three dimensions.

Extensive academic research over the past two decades has done its part in proving that this technology not only sounds exciting but also facilitates better outcomes for students. Their focus increases when they have access to AR-activated materials, which facilitate better memory retention because multisensory experiences help students form stronger cognitive connections, enhancing recall and long-term retention for all students. The complicated subject matter becomes easier to understand when students have access to AR tools, according to research published in the British Journal of Educational Technology.

Students themselves desperately want to experience the benefits of AR in their educational environments. In one recent study, over 97 per cent of students agreed that the use of mobile AR applications had a positive impact on their educational experiences. When asked about their future educational environments, 95 per cent of students agreed that mobile AR applications should be used, according to research published in the Journal of Science Education. 

Rapid recent progress in democratising access to AR-activated materials

For these reasons, AR is now revolutionising educational spaces. Although the technology has been around for years, only recent innovations have enabled it to be used at scale. The first AR-enhanced print book was published in 2001, but development costs, as well as usability and scalability challenges, presented huge barriers to wider adoption in educational publishing. The technology remained somewhat limited without mobile devices.

Since then, the process of AR content production has been streamlined and its cost has fallen significantly. Mobile devices have proliferated among students and teachers, opening up new opportunities for them to connect with multimedia materials. These devices can be installed with applications that easily scan 3D models for use with AR-activated learning materials. As a result, platforms such as Ludenso have been able to help bring pricing down significantly and increase accessibility to AR amongst authors and publishers alike. Indeed, since we first started working with publishers three years ago we’ve helped reduce the price by around 90 per cent.

Importantly, the production of AR content combined with traditional materials has become easier. Our own AR authoring tool, built specifically for publishers, consists of a ‘drag and drop’ studio that democratises AR production for almost any publisher that wants to create an AR book. The link between print and digital content is seamless for students to use, and publishers can also use analytics to review how users interact with the content.

The AR-activated classroom is here

The boundaries of possibility with this technology are already stretched far and wide. Publishers can implement almost any kind of media integration they can imagine, be it integrated quizzes, video content, or interactive 3D models. What has changed is the accessibility, cost of production, and awareness of the technology.

Ludenso itself focuses on making the technology simpler to produce and use, and enabling publishers to develop it at scale for use in classrooms across the world. Ludenso’s studio completely removes the need for internal developer teams and enormous instruments, which have long discouraged some publishers from investing in the technology. 

All its content is produced in collaboration with subject experts, which creates a network of expertise for publishers, who can be sure that they’re producing the best quality assets for their products. This curated content not only ensures that students have access to the highest quality education materials, but that educators have access to tools which they can trust. 

As the use of technology continues to evolve, schools and governments must adopt a research-based approach to technology in the classroom. The blended learning which AR provides does not conflict with traditional learning methods but instead helps students ascertain a deeper understanding of their subjects. Only by combining traditional learning methods with the endless technological possibilities which AR and VR present, can we prepare students for the future. 

It has been a long time coming, but the ‘future classroom’ we’ve all heard about is just around the corner. European educational institutions and publishers must now only step up to meet the demand.

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