Learning Across Realities: How Virtual And Augmented Realities Empower Learning

Concurrent Session 3
Streamed Session

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Brief Abstract

How can VR and AR support learning? We've played the games and scoured the literature. Join the authors of the "Learning Across Realities" report, Dan Roy (MIT) and Iulian Radu (Harvard), in a panel discussion with Paul Martin (HP). Leave with guidelines for creators and curators of XR learning experiences.


Paul Martin is the Chief Technologist of the HP XR Business Unit, located in Fort Collins, Colorado. Paul started at HP 35 years ago, working on one of the industry’s first 3D graphics accelerators. Since then he has worked on multiple graphics system architectures including highly-integrated graphics solutions, cloud computing solutions, industry-standard performance benchmarks, virtual workstations, and most recently on VR and AR solutions. Paul has a BSEE from the University of Colorado and an MSEE from Stanford University.

Extended Abstract

Extended Realities (XR) including Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) have the potential to transform learning. They can immerse learners in virtual worlds or bring virtual objects into their world. They have the power to create a sense of presence, of being there or an illusion of reality. Presence has the power to persuade, help overcome fears, transfer learning across environments, change how we see ourselves, help us think with our bodies, avoid hazards, think spatially, remap the world to human scale, feel together even when apart, and create joy. Media literacy is as important now as ever, to help us create, curate, and consume in ways that uplift.

To create presence, consider media forms (e.g. headsets), media content, and personal characteristics. The ideal media form is vivid and invisible, like an open window, or transformed, like a social robot, so we can focus on the experience, not the technology. It should coherently surround the senses, minimize distractions, and track our bodies responsively.

Media content should be designed for coherence, interactivity, embodied cognition, intuitiveness, and socialization. Meaningful environments with many possible actions and great body tracking, that are intuitive and social are great foundations for learning.

Experience of presence may vary across learners, so consider access and equity. People likely to feel more presence enjoy being immersed in decision-making, think spatially, are introverted, like getting involved in watching or reading, can build mental models, are empathetic, feeling, and sensitive, have a creative imagination, are younger, open to new experiences, and willing to suspend disbelief.

Presence and embodiment each strengthen each other. We have evolved to think with our bodies, so they are powerful tools for learning. Natural gestures reduce cognitive load, aiding focus on spatial thinking and memorization. Gestures also support conceptual understanding, like rearranging parts of an equation, creating centripetal motion, or walking the path of an asteroid.

Embodiment supports empathy, allowing us to walk in another’s shoes. Participants generally show more care and helping behaviors after embodied experiences as someone else, like abuse victims, the color blind, schizophrenics, dementia sufferers, children, and other races. We can also inhabit what we wish to become, like being a surgeon or sculptor holding a robotic pen that helps perform expert tasks with dexterity.

Schools using immersive learning should only replicate the classroom sparingly, if at all, and instead focus on surpassing the limitations of the classroom. Field trips can help, but often have less interactivity and embodiment. Labs can fit well, and slot in well with specific learning objectives, but can be dry and linear depending on design. Creation through project-based learning has significant potential. Flipped classrooms and station rotation can leverage class time for immersive learning. Let students be the experts.

By the end of this session, attendees will leave with useful guidelines for creating and curating XR learning experiences. The attendees will also get a glimpse of a new solution, HP Omnicept, and learn how it can enhance such learning experiences with bio-analytics.