Hands holding tablet that demonstrates AR learning for engine repair

This is why AR will take your learning to another dimension

Now that the final version of iOS 11 is available to download complete with ARKit capabilities, the app store is overflowing with AR apps to explore. Apps such as Ikea Place have been spearheading the flood of AR puzzles, games and tools making their way onto consumer phones across the globe in the last few months.

As much as I’m excited by the prospect of adding random AR GIFs to my surroundings, the sparkle of some of the more frivolous apps will begin to wear off very quickly. Once AR fever dies down, we’ll be left asking an important question: what value does AR add to an experience?

At Saffron, we’re always thinking about how to use the latest technologies to create truly game-changing performance improvements for our clients. AR, along with its cousin VR and other cutting edge techs like AI and responsive performance support systems, mark the road to the future. But I’ll let you in on a secret… getting there won’t be easy; in fact, it could be infuriatingly hard.

Is AR worth the effort?

There are a few key attributes that make AR well-suited for learning.

  1. AR liberates the learner

    AR is all about augmenting our current world rather than trying to replace it, so from a learning perspective the user can play out work life scenarios physically and make decisions whilst navigating the workplace in the flesh, rather than passively sat at their desk. It’s the next step on from an immersive simulation, and the learning will only be further solidified by the physical context.

  2. AR blurs the lines between learning and doing

    At Saffron, we find this very exciting. It’s important to set up a safe space for learners to fail and learn from their mistakes, and AR offers such an environment. It’s incredible to think of medical students practicing on AR cadavers, or dull training manuals and text books being transformed into interactive overlay, safely walking learners through using equipment.

  3. AR is explorative

    The explorative nature of AR is an exciting prospect, especially for elearning designers looking to tap into people’s intrinsic motivation to discover new things. It adds a whole new dimension to placing the learner in a quest or a journey and presenting them with teachable moments that surface at every turn. This speeds up the learning process as learners physically navigate the space, absorbing information and behaviours and participating along the way.

  4. AR is exciting

    Let’s not forget the engagement value and pure excitement. Part of the magic of AR is in its ability to transform the day-to-day into something unexpected; this should be embraced by instructional designers as they design an overarching narrative full of unexpected twists and turns. Structurally, AR lends itself to episodic interactions that lead the learner through challenges and rewards.

How should you design AR learning?

As promising as AR is from a learning perspective, the real difficulty is coming up with ways to connect the technology to real-life work scenarios. At Saffron, we’ve been exploring various potential AR learning experiences, from soft skills to technical training. I’ve been reading Kapp and O’Driscoll who, in their book ‘Learning in 3D’ (keep your eyes peeled for our review), offer instructional designers a comprehensive checklist of 8 design principles to follow when designing in 3D:

  • Instructionally grounded
  • Reflectively synthesized
  • Participant centred
  • Contextually situated
  • Discovery driven
  • Action oriented
  • Consequentially experienced
  • Collaboratively motivated

In fact, these are all the same elements Saffron uses in all of our learning experiences. Of course, assessment is a whole different area, which I will be exploring in another blog. In the meantime, the growth and use of AR and VR amongst internal L&D teams seems to be limited, but outside the world of learning, companies are using it in innovative ways.

We’re excited to see what the future holds for AR learning. With some ground-breaking projects already in development, it won’t be long before we’re creating performance boosting learning solutions using Augmented Reality. All we’ll say is, watch this (augmented) space…