With all the interest I’m seeing in the use of VR for learning, it’s sometimes easy to forget its poorer cousin – augmented reality. The topic of AR tends to pop up towards the very end of the conversation, yet its potential as a learning tool is underestimated. In fact AR is relatively simple to develop – well within the skill set of most of us – and can deliver very valuable learning opportunities.
What is augmented reality?
Yes, it’s Pokémon Go, but we’ll skip over that, as the focus of this piece is about bringing AR into the L&D space easily and cheaply.
In this context, basically AR is about presenting the learner with content that appears on the screen of a mobile device when they scan an image using a dedicated AR app that uses the device’s camera. The app has been primed to recognise certain images that come into focus – known as the trigger image. When the app confirms the image as one in its database, it then superimposes other predefined content on top of the image being viewed on the smartphone screen, with which the learner can then interact. You use an icon next to the image to prompt the learner to launch the AR app and to scan the image.
How do you create AR content?
There are a number of tools out there that enable you to create AR content and many are designed for anyone to use, with no requirement for any specialist skills. I’ve tried out a few, three of which seem to do the job pretty well and simply:
You upload your trigger image, add the media and resources that you want to be superimposed over the image, publish the AP content, instruct your learners to download the your tool’s own dedicated AR app and have them scan the image to view the additional content.
The tool you use will store all your trigger images and related AR content and keeps in sync with the app. This means you can update the AR content at any time, which permits you to keep your related learning content up to date.
What types of AR content can you use?
You can overlay a wide variety of content types in AR. Here are the types covered by the tools I’ve reviewed.
|Websites||Take your learners to web content related to the image they are seeing|
|Videos||Let your learners view videos that provide more information|
|Audio||Let your learners listen to audio or podcasts|
|Short polls||Provide a way for your learners to vote on something|
|Further images||Let your learners view other related imagery or even provide them with an album of images that relate to what they have scanned|
|Social media||Let your learners interact with social media platforms to share and discuss what they are seeing|
|Phone calls||Provide an easy way for learners to call for learning support|
|Provide an easy way for learners to contact L&D or a subject matter expert|
How could I use AR for learning?
Here are some of my ideas.
|Enhanced course workbooks||Film a series of short videos that provide a recap of the content of each part of the course, possibly using the lead trainer talking to the camera. Place a still photo taken from each clip into the different chapters of the workbook to act as the trigger image and add the video clips as the AR layer. When they are back at their desk, the learner can scan the image and watch the recap.|
|Performance support||Similar to the enhanced course workbook, look at your policy and procedure manuals or step-by-step guides and see what you could add via AR. These could be explainer videos that provide background information or additional hints and tips around certain steps in the process. You might provide a visual demonstration of the process set out in the manual. These could also be links to other resources on the intranet, or even a one click tap to call the support team.|
|Product knowledge training||If you are in retail, your products will all have barcodes. Why not use the barcodes as the trigger images, which then fire up promotional videos for that product, or a webpage that offers a set-by-step guide to selling the product, or to more detailed specifications.|
|Interactive posters||If you use posters to promote learning or maybe large-scale infographics to support a topic, then add AR content such as videos and related website content to make that wall space really work for you.|
What are the benefits from using AR for learning?
I see three major benefits to using AR for learning.
- The first – not surprisingly – is that you can augment other learning (or non-learning) content with additional material in an efficient and less cumbersome manner.
- The second is that AR turns your learners’ mobile devices into a learning platform and without the need for a learning management system. This is particularly important for those audience groups who might not have regular access to your LMS, if at all. Groups such a retail employees or mobile workers in sales, engineering and technical support roles might all struggle to access an LMS when they are on-the-move, but will have their smartphones or Wi-Fi-enabled tablets with them.
- The third benefit is the fact that AR provides you with a relatively straightforward way to integrate learning into the workflow. Where and whenever someone might have a need for additional support, AR can provide immediate access to a wealth of content formats that should be able to support most learning requirements.
Through the use of simple AR content creation tools, AR offers lots of exciting options to support learning. It really doesn’t deserve to be the poor relation to VR.