Will Augmented Reality Based Training Fit into Instructor led Training?

Mobile phones are misnamed

Welcome to today’s post! I assume that many of you are reading this blog, on your mobile devices, either a cell phone or a tablet device. Mobile devices have given a tough fight to their “big” brothers, the personal computers, confining the latter to majorly serve at the work places, in the last decade.

Mobile phones are misnamed

Moving on quickly to today’s topic, several companies currently train their staff on-the-go with the help of mobile devices that mostly derive content from the cloud (provides centralized data storage, which can be accessed through any networked device around the globe). Let’s not talk about the effectiveness of these training programs or the pros & cons of mLearning.

Today, I would like to emphasize more on the use of mLearning in the Instructor led Training scenario. I know it doesn’t seem to sync quiet well, when we talk about mobile devices and a classroom with a blackboard or a projector. We often hear people talking about the use of mobile devices in corporate training, since the devices are designed and used by adults. But, I am referring to the mobile technology here, which can be very well drawn in to use, even in traditional classrooms. I am talking about augmented reality.

Do you like to see what you do not see

As many of you might already know, augmented reality (AR) is the technology that alters the reality as you see it (we are not referring to The Matrix concept here, but a similar stuff created with the help of a sensory device such as your camera). The elements in your real world (sometimes the world itself) are modified (augmented) according pre-written code and presented to you.

How does such a technology fit into an Instructor-led training scenario? To answer this, I have to share my experience working on a mLearning prototype. We picked one of the biology textbooks of a secondary school program and decided to use advanced technology that helps students understand the concepts better. We spent quite some time trying to choose the right technology for the training program and ruled out the routine eLearning method. We wanted to try something innovative to facilitate better understanding. That’s when we came across certain open source tools that can be used to develop augmented reality experiences with the help of mobile devices.

At first, we were not very sure if the usage of mobile devices in a classroom will be accepted by the crowd (especially in a country like ours). But, it didn’t stop us from moving forward with the idea. We went ahead and prepared our own materials (a few pages from the textbook that we reprinted with elements recognizable by the AR program). Let’s skip the technical details of the development process and move on to the learner experience. Once the program is ready, we had a few students come by and distributed our version of materials which looked very identical to the one they were carrying (only that the AR program we developed recognizes the images in our materials).

We said, “This is what we created to help you understand your subject better.” They went through the materials twice or thrice, trying to identify any differences from their materials and then accepted defeat. Thereafter, we gave them a mobile device with our application opened and asked them to re-look at the material through the application. They were shocked, surprised and amazed at what they have seen. The page that was open in the material consisted of a line diagram depicting various parts of human heart and written below the image, are their functions. Placing our AR application over this image opened a beautifully rendered, realistic animated 3D hologram image of the heart that resembled a real one. The students had buttons in the application to turn on and off different elements on the screen (such as the arteries and veins), so that all the parts and their location can be clearly identified. The students were spellbound and said they found the training methods highly effective.

This was just a prototype. What if you could reprint the entire text book (which costs exactly the same as a normal textbook), with elements programmed to support AR based learning? You may argue saying an eLearning program can also be used here, with the same animations integrated into the course. The advantage of using AR based training is that it retains the conventional training experience, while providing better understanding of concepts. For example, in our case, the students carry the same materials that they currently have which can be used in regular classroom training sessions. They also carry the AR application for better comprehension. This is not possible with a standard eLearning program.

What do you think? Share your views in the comments section below.

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