Facilitating Collaboration and Peer Support in Online Classrooms with Augmented Reality



This is a guest post from Jackie Sumner, former educational technology consultant, currently working as a freelance writer.

Augmented reality (AR) facilitates greater collaboration in online classrooms by providing students with a shared virtual space where they can exchange ideas and work together to solve problems remotely. Although still in its early stages, the technology holds the potential to revolutionise the learning experience — one study into the impact of a collaborative mobile augmented reality learning application (CoMARLA) on student engagement found the tech increased student learning performance by almost 9%. Grendel Games is also pioneering educational AR games. Blok Out, for example, is a mystery game that teaches people about the history of a mediaeval prison in the Netherlands. As players solve puzzles and progress through the game, they learn key facts about the prison. By integrating AR into serious games, remote students can benefit from an immersive learning environment that encourages them to work together. 

Strengthening social skills remotely 

Notably, AR can strengthen social skills in remote students. For instance, in one study on the impact of AR in medical training in simulated remote settings, trainees were found to develop better communication skills compared to students who underwent independent, self-regulated learning. AR tools like Meta Quest headsets, in particular, are key to allowing remote students to collaborate freely, benefit from peer support, and strengthen their social skills. These are immersive all-in-one AR and VR headsets featuring multiplayer application support. As such, students can discuss ideas, collaborate on projects, and solve problems together in a shared virtual space.  

Meta Quest headsets in online schools 

For example, in Japan’s N and S schools — the country’s largest online schools where lessons are always conducted online, even if students opt to attend one of the nineteen campuses — over 6,000 students use these cutting-edge headsets to learn remotely and collaborate together. The online schools “took to the metaverse to conduct lessons without physical constraints while providing an immersive environment for individual learning”, Director Riichiro Sono tells Nikke Asia. According to the school’s teachers, Meta Quest headsets are improving the learning experience for students by facilitating peer-to-peer collaboration even when they’re physically far away from each other. After surveying teachers and students, the technology was found to have a 98% satisfaction rate. 

Enhancing elearning 

Augmented reality can also be incorporated into elearning courses for remote learners. Elearning is already rapidly growing in popularity, facilitating remote learning in an increasingly digital world. In particular, elearning courses boost knowledge retention rates by as much as 25%-60%, compared to rates of just 8%-10% for traditional in-person learning, Forbes reveals. Elearning also improves student engagement and motivation, particularly when courses feature interactive elements. Here’s where AR can help. For example, students participating in Case Western Reserve University’s HoloAnatomy program learn anatomy with the help of Microsoft HoloLens, an AR headset. Students can view 3D holographic images of every part of the human body, while being free to collaborate and interact with each other. As a result, students learn twice as fast than they would with a traditional dissection.

A collaborative platform 

Above all, AR provides students with a collaborative platform. For example, one team working out of Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana has developed a first-generation prototype called MetaAR: an AR app platform dedicated to facilitating easy collaboration for both students and teachers. “Augmented reality is overlaying digital content onto the physical world,” explains Karthik Ramani, Purdue’s Donald W. Feddersen Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering. “It can be delivered on many different devices, from a phone and a tablet, to a head-mounted display. For example, you can hold your smartphone camera up to your living room and rearrange the furniture in 3D. Or you can play a video game, and the characters show up on your kitchen table.” However, Ramani still considers AR as in its early stages of development, and needs to become more accessible to mainstream educators.  

To help bridge this gap, the research team created a STEM education kit featuring a small model city to teach students about circuit board design. Wooden parts (including buildings, roads, and streets) contain conductive material that illuminates once students assemble them accurately. MetaAR software was then used to simulate the model city in 3D, and lessons devised to teach students how to build the city. Students use tablets to see how to place the physical pieces on their desks in front of them. The app also alerts students to any wrong moves. Moreover, students can also collaborate via the app whether that’s by showing each other pictures and videos of their work, discussing problems and potential solutions, or asking for help on how to best move the pieces.  

AR has the power to facilitate collaboration in remote students. By incorporating AR into serious games, students can benefit from an engaging and immersive learning environment. 

Tim Laning

Business developer

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