We’ve recently had the pleasure of working on a fascinating eLearning product that incorporates various elements of Augmented Reality in its courses. The experience was a blast.
Sure, one might say that AR elements overcomplicate the lectures and including them won’t prove to be of better value than videos or visuals. Well, the person saying that has probably never had to experience the difference between looking at complex hardware elements and getting a chance to plug them in on his own to make what he was studying so hard work.
The difference between seeing and doing (even though digitally) is uncanny. For starters, it is simply fun to play around with computer-generated stuff in the real world. Secondly, such an activity emphasizes one’s learning capabilities.
The difference is large enough to visualize it with numbers. The amount of students who have successfully passed the tests after a course during the UI/UX and beta test phases was different based on inclusion of AR-based training sessions.
37% more students have passed the test successfully after studying with AR. 96% of students who had the AR experience have mentioned that they’ve had a pleasant, engaging experience while learning.
These numbers speak for themselves.
AR and eLearning – a match made in heaven?
AR and VR technologies open the doors into the realm of mind-blowing opportunities. They really bring a lot to the table.
You can have a group of students working on a single project simultaneously despite being at home or even spread around the globe. Not only will these students learn what collaboration is, but they will be getting the closest thing to practical experience technology can offer.
You as the product owner will gain access to a vast pool of user-generated data. Some of the smartest apps on the market can do as much as tracking of the user’s emotional state. Insights, accuracy, the clarity of your product and your lesson – you’ll get all of this data and more with an AR app.
Engagement and gamification elements are an important factor of AR technologies as well. They enhance the learner’s focus and allow to go all out knowing that certain rules are in place and victory is achievable if certain criteria are met. Or, in simpler words, you can show a clear challenge to your audience. A challenge they may define, explain and overcome. Such a goal works much better in terms of motivation than something as vague as learning itself as no one can objectively visualize the true extent of it.
That noted, AR is far from being perfect.
Judging from our experience with developing the product, we can state that something as complex, time and resource-intensive is not a great fit for every eLearning solution. Nor does every eLearning solution need AR.
We were creating a solution for engineers and tech-savvy people. They needed to know how hardware components fit and work with each other in real life. Doing AR in an online course on History, for example, wouldn’t work as well.
Would it be cool to see ancient romans running around on your table? Yes.
Would it add to the learning process or would having them in your course justify the time, effort and budget required for development of a complex software solution with unique architecture, custom rendered elements, etc.? I somehow doubt that.
Yes, AR can do more harm than good on a project that can’t find value in it. But can AR harm a project that would – at least on paper – benefit from inclusion of AR software?
If done poorly – it sure as hell can!
The do’s and don’ts of AR
Ok, now that we have covered the pros of AR software in eLearning solutions and we also know that they can misfire we are to understand how to make them work. This is why our team of engineers at TrendLine has created this handy list of dos and don’ts. Do note that it is based on our own experience so if you have anything to ad on top – feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below.
- Add quality to your courses through content. Do your research and make the sessions practice-heavy. Visualize key elements with AR solutions but do not go beyond that.
- Do incorporate design into your storytelling or the general narrative. Make the courses and all of their elements simple, intuitive, easy to grasp. Your users will only thank you for a highly visible “enroll”, “stop” or “pause” button. Same goes for the AR elements. They are not videos. They must have an interface as well as clear controls.
- Do rely on testing. QA is an integral element of AR and VR development. And it’s not the hardware or software we are talking about here. User experience has to be thoroughly tested if you don’t want your fancy goggles-wearing students to get nauseous, dizzy or sick.
- Set up the rules. With AR you have gamification of your project whether you want it or not. Your students will be playing a game – set clear rules and a way for them to win through effort. This will make their experience ever so rewarding.
- Do not put all of your eggs in one basket, especially if that basket is technology. Too much AR will make your eLearning platform into a game. It’s not that games are bad or anything, but they are not a viable source of education.
- Don’t rely heavily on design. The content is what matters in an online course, not the wrapping.
- Let things slide just because they look good. Every mechanic is to have a functional purpose; otherwise developing it is a waste of both time-to-market and your budget.
- Do not release your product without feedback from focus groups. Check if they liked the eLearning process or not and check if they have actually learned anything. AR apps are a bottomless well of Big Data gathered from users. Don’t let it go to waste.
This sums up our list of lessons learned from but one AR development project. Do you also have anything to share on the matter? Please, do so in the comments section below or just contact us in case you have any questions.