Why 5G can be the difference-maker in education

Glimpse the potential impact of a next-generation network on teaching—inside and outside the classroom.

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Education has always been considered one of the most promising areas for 5G-powered innovation. Buoyed by the massive bandwidth and dramatically reduced latency of a next-generation wireless network, educators and software developers alike could refine digital teaching tools to an uncommon degree, while also developing new ones that explode the two-dimensional lesson plan.

Imagine a classroom where students use virtual or augmented reality to walk amid an ancient ruin, or at-home learning where students seamlessly collaborate on group projects. “Whether kids have returned to the classroom or are remote learning, we need to think of new ways technology can help them engage with educational content,” says Sanyogita Shamsunder, Vice President of Technology Development and 5G Labs at Verizon. 

To that end, here is just a glimpse into the potential directions that 5G-powered education might take. 

Immersive AR and VR in the classroom

Next-generation network power could alter how teachers and students interact with each other and their materials. With a high bandwidth, low latency network like Verizon 5G Ultra Wideband, heavy processing and rendering could potentially move off of a VR headset and into the cloud, allowing wearers longer battery life, lighter hardware and—eventually—lower cost, which could help increase accessibility of these devices.

Those same advantages are also poised to help educational content developers, who—because they wouldn’t be as constrained by the limitations of the hardware—could potentially realize their creative visions in ways they haven’t been able to before.

Imagine teachers guiding students through the take-off sequence of a space shuttle or flying through the human circulatory system, allowing children to see the lesson unfold before their eyes—and literally losing themselves in learning.

Education technology for good

But the potential impact of 5G on education isn’t limited to instruction. It could help change how people work together, too. Group projects are proven to improve children’s ability to cooperate and build empathy, and 5G Ultra Wideband could make collaboration—both in and out of the classroom—a powerful tool in teachers’ arsenals.

The low latency achieved by 5G Ultra Wideband in particular could help power scenarios where remote collaboration between students could eventually feel as natural as talking between desks. Think about a group art project. Where a 5G Ultra Wideband uplink exists in a school, kids from different classrooms could meet in a virtual art studio and collaborate on a mural in near-real time.

With near-real-time response, 5G in education offers the potential for new paths of instruction and classroom engagement, enabling students to not only learn how to use advanced technologies, but also how to develop and create with them. Initiatives like the Verizon 5G EdTech Challenge have surfaced tantalizing innovations, proving that the only limits placed on 5G-powered educational content developers come from their imagination.

The promise of 5G also contains the promise of a leveled playing field. A lack of connectivity can hamper learning efforts. Initiatives like Verizon Innovative Learning help foster digital inclusion in under-resourced communities through a transformative, STEM-based education program. In 2019, Verizon launched its first 5G-enabled Verizon Innovative Learning classroom, where students utilize emerging technologies like artificial intelligence, augmented reality and virtual reality. This technology has brought textbooks to life by giving entire classrooms access to immersive learning programs, where they can visit the inside of an atom, explore the remnants of a dying star or meet underrepresented icons in history.

Learning on the go

In an increasingly mobile-first society, the devices in people’s pockets, in their ears and on their wrists answer questions and help them learn. As 5G reaches into more corners of daily life, it has the capacity to make on-the-go education easier, too. 

A field trip to the museum could transform from students yapping in a quiet museum to enthralled pupils captivated by ambient, mixed-reality images that enhance the learning experience. Imagine a student pointing their tablet at a QR code at the base of an Ice Age diorama, and having an AR 3D skeleton of a wooly mammoth emerge on their screen, complete with interactive elements. 

Sound like the future? Actually, it's already coming into view. 

The Smithsonian Open Access program brings artifacts to life. "Activating Smithsonian Open Access is a great step forward toward immersive, interactive, and remote experiences made with the creative community," says Shamsunder. “Verizon’s new AR museum sets the stage for even more amazing enhancements when paired with the massive bandwidth and low latency of Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network."

With 5G, learning is poised to come alive in the most remarkable ways.

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