How AR is Transforming eLearning

AR in learning and development

The terms “augmented reality” and “virtual reality” might still seem like tools for the future, but that’s only because you might be thinking of them in a Hollywood way. Sure, they make for good sci-fi plots, but what do they have to do with eLearning? 

Virtual reality and augmented reality aren’t just for movie plotlines about futuristic time travel; learning experience designers have been using it for years to enhance the way learners see and interact with content. 

The way AR is transforming eLearning has the ability to change the industry in today’s L&D climate and the tech, while it might not be as sensationalized as it is in your favorite sci-fi movie, is highly accessible and closer than you think. 

Getting to Know AR (Augmented Reality) 

The best way to describe augmented reality, or AR, is as a bridge between the physical and virtual world, or VR. 

Look around you: whether you’re in the office, working from home, or sitting on the subway, you’re in the physical world. This article, however, exists in the virtual world. It’s part of a vast network of virtual, computer generate content⎼videos, games, images; you name it⎼that don’t actually exist in a physical sense; you can’t hold them in your hands. 

Augmented reality brings virtual elements into the physical world so you can interact with them almost as if they were real, tangible objects, combining the best of physical and virtual reality. 

It sounds complicated, but chances are you’ve used AR before: if you’ve ever used a Snapchat filter, for example, you’ve used a computer-generated element (that funny cat filter) alter something physically (your face). Or, if you’ve ever caught a Snorlax with your phone while playing Pokemon GO, you’ve use your physical phone to interact with a virtual character: that’s AR. Obviously that Pokemon doesn’t exist in the physical world, but you can see and interact with it. 

What AR Means for eLearning 

It’s not all fun and games when it comes to AR. Applying AR to eLearning opportunities is a no-brainer and one that many forward-thinking organizations already use. 

The U.S. Army was one of the first to adopt AR as an eLearning tool and soldiers have been using AR-enabled programs to practice high-stakes drills and abilities from the safety of a computer lab before deployment. 

Even something as simple as furniture shopping has been the beneficiary of good AR: IKEA uses it to display product information and assembly instructions when buyers are in their own homes and Amazon allows you to use your camera to “see” what a new couch will look like in your existing living room before you add to cart. 

It’s clear that AR has real business potential and more and more, it’s being used to create meaningful, safe, and engaging experiences for learners. 

Consider some of these reasons organizations are seeking out custom AR learning experiences for their employees: 

  1. Safe, real world application. The U.S. Army uses AR to prep soldiers for dangerous situations, but AR doesn’t have to be reserved for high-stales scenarios. Anytime learners need hands-on practice, AR allows them to test their skills in a safe, supportive environment while receiving real-time feedback to adjust their behavior if necessary. This helps build confidence so learners are ready to apply their new skills on the job.
  2. Dynamic learning opportunities. Let’s face it: Not all training is an engaging experience that learners crave. Adding AR capabilities allows learner to engage with and even manipulate their training in a physical way. Rather than passive viewers, they become active participants in the process.
  3. Physical learning even when isolated. Whether it’s because of a global pandemic or the result of a globally diverse organization, more and more learners are working solo. Hands-on, in person learning might simply be impossible, which is why AR is such an integral component of your training strategy in 2022. Learners can get the hands-on training that they need even if they aren’t in the office or even physically touching a product or tool.
  4. Complex and precise training opportunities. For complex procedural-based training, AR helps learners break components into more manageable pieces and take the time to practice each step. Imagine, for instance, AR being used to teach medical students a new health procedure or surgery. Students can physically examine and manipulate components for complete mastery for a safer and more confident procedure.
  5. Reduced expenses. While it’s true that AR coding and development can be a pricey part of your training strategy, it does have the potential to reduce expenses overall. Unlike in-person training using physical models, AR can be deployed again and again, using learners’ own tech such as tablets or smartphones. It drastically reduces in-person travel costs for event-based training  and results in better prepared trainees. Learners can access the content again and again, practicing skills and getting feedback until they’re ready to use their training in real-world scenarios. 

The possibilities for AR in eLearning are literally endless. Whether as a method for practicing a medical procedure, predicting how new elements will affect an existing prototype, making engineering calculations, training employees on a product’s new features, or even just practicing soft skills, AR creates a safe, engaging, and supportive environment for eLearning. 

You don’t need to wait for the future of AR and VR to see the benefits: Avoid costly mistakes and engage your learners by strategizing on how AR could work for your next training initiative⎼no time machine necessary. 


About ELM Learning

ELM Learning is an eLearning company that creates smart, beautiful learning experiences to engage employees and create real change. They specialize in custom eLearning, Instructor-Led training, and strategy. 

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