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Augmented and
virtual reality
in education

Author: Rose de Fremery

As K-12 education transforms, more schools are tapping technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR) and extended reality (XR) as a whole (which encompasses AR, VR and mixed reality) to enhance education opportunities for their students. Augmented and virtual reality in education can expand learning opportunities for students at all levels while also improving educational equity and classroom safety. Here's how AR and VR are already benefiting K-12 education today and why these technologies show promise for the future of education.

How AR can be used in K-12 education

Much like their higher education counterparts, K-12 educators have found several effective uses for augmented reality in education. Because augmented reality allows educators to layer digital experiences and objects onto the real-world environment of a classroom, students can use it to directly encounter objects from distant places and historical periods. They no longer have to consider them as abstract, theoretical concepts or simply hear about them from the teacher.

Using an AR app on a smartphone or tablet, students can interact with artwork and cultural artifacts, manipulating them and investigating their properties. And, since these items are digital, they're safely contained within the virtual realm. For example, teachers can use augmented reality in education to let students conduct virtual chemical experiments without having to worry about classroom safety. Because AR technology is mobile-friendly, it's an ideal option for enhancing field trips to aquariums or museums. Simply by viewing a specific item or object from within the AR app, students can access a wealth of information about it.

Augmented reality in education can particularly come in handy when exploring complex subjects like mathematics, biology, chemistry and physics, which might otherwise be more challenging to learn using traditional methods. This technology also has special value for visual learners and some students with disabilities, who may find the graphical format more intuitive and engaging than text-based learning or lectures.

How VR can be used in K-12 education

Virtual reality in education offers students an even more immersive experience than augmented reality in education. Rather than physically traveling on that field trip to a museum, for example, students can virtually visit it by putting on a VR headset or using an affordable VR-enabled mobile device. While inhabiting a virtual space that's comprised of visual and aural sensory input, they can also travel back to a significant place or time in history—China's Great Wall or Egypt's ancient Pharaonic period, for example. They can even leave Earth altogether and travel back through both space and time for an introduction to the Big Bang and the formation of the universe.

Because virtual reality in education allows students to directly experience events and places, it has a higher potential for not only engaging their senses but inspiring their empathy as well. It's well suited for visual learners, students with physical disabilities, special education students, students who speak a different language at home, immunocompromised students and students with limited economic means. Virtual reality in education can put all students on a more equal playing field than they otherwise might be in a traditional classroom space, ensuring greater equity in education in the process.

Virtual reality in online education

VR can also support communal experiences that bring students from across the globe together. Students in the Boston area have already used virtual reality in education to build a virtual version of the Old North Church from that city. In these virtual environments, students can collectively engage in problem-solving and easily experiment with various strategies for completing an activity—in this case, constructing a church. What might have seemed like a dry topic in a textbook or homework assignment comes to life in a virtual environment that students find more exciting and inspiring.

Why 5G connectivity is critical for AR and VR experiences

Augmented reality and virtual reality in education can provide transformative experiences to K-12 students, but they depend on strong network performance to work well. AR and VR are known to consume higher bandwidth than other classroom technologies, and they're especially sensitive to latency. Because 5G connectivity can offer higher speeds, more abundant bandwidth and lower latency, it's a crucial enabler for both virtual and augmented reality in education.

5G connectivity also comes in handy when classes or students take their AR and VR applications out into the world—for example, on that field trip to the museum or while completing a homework assignment during a trip to visit relatives. Rather than having to wait to find a location with secure Wi-Fi or search for adequate cellular coverage, students and teachers whose mobile devices are equipped with 5G capability can simply open their AR or VR apps and join in the experience without any delays or interruptions.

Enhance K-12 education with AR and VR

Teachers and students are using more education technology on a daily basis than ever before, expanding the classroom to include digital overlays on top of the traditional physical environment. As innovative options like virtual and augmented reality in education become more cost-effective, K-12 schools may want to explore their significant potential for engaging learners of all types and fostering empathy through powerful immersive experiences. 5G connectivity can help make these use cases possible, delivering the high network performance necessary to bring students into virtual worlds where the future of learning is already taking place.

Discover how Verizon's immersive reality education solutions enhance learning opportunities.

The author of this content is a paid contributor for Verizon.