LAWRENCE — As virtual reality and augmented reality take on bigger roles in everyday life, scholars hope to determine how effectively they could work in the classroom. A new study from the University of Kansas found that an augmented reality lecture scored high among users, who reported feeling more engaged with the content than a video lecture. However, objective data showed that those who interacted with the AR model learned less than those who watched the video. The findings suggest that educators need to carefully consider when and how to use augmented reality as part of the learning environment.
Mugur Geana, associate professor of health communication and director of the Center for Excellence in Health Communications to Underprivileged Populations at KU, led the study in which 44 students completed an educational module on the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the infectious agent responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic). Half watched a video that shared information about the virus, its protein spikes, the virus capsule and its genome. The other half interacted with an AR model of the virus where they used a tablet that imagined a 3D virus model in the experimental room, where they could move around the virtual model and click through the 3D graphics. In doing so, they received audio prompts with the same information about the viral components as the video.
“We are curious to explore how we can use mixed reality to address teaching and learning,” said Geana. “We all know well, especially after COVID, to watch things and learn on a small screen. So, we thought it would be interesting to see how we can go beyond that 2D environment.”
The study, conducted in collaboration with Dan Cernusca, associate professor of instructional design at the School of Pharmacy, North Dakota State University, and Pan Liu, assistant professor at Marian University, was accepted for presentation at the International Communication Association’s 2023 conference. in Toronto.
Before participating in the study, subjects answered questions about their knowledge of the virus that causes COVID-19. They were then randomly assigned to the video or AR arm of the study. During the experiment, participants in the video arm had their eyesight monitored to account for their attention to the graphic elements of the video. For AR arm participants, a camera in the room and the camera in their tablet recorded their interaction with the virtual 3D model for later analysis. All participants were then exposed to distractor videos, after which their retention of the information presented was tested. Finally, interviews were conducted to record their experiences and feedback on education.
“We were interested in student interaction with the viral model for both branches of the study. We measured which graphics they were paying attention to and to what extent for both experimental treatments,” Geana said. have looked at all the learning modules or have skipped some”.
The findings suggest that while the AR model that projected a representation of the virus into their physical environment was new and more immersive, that novelty likely distracted from the information it was meant to convey. And while those in the video group learned the most, that doesn’t mean AR isn’t suitable for educational purposes, Geana said. Instead, researchers need to understand how it can be successfully adapted and used in classroom or distance learning settings to effectively engage and inform students.
The study findings were consistent with previous research findings on AR in education, Geana said, raising new questions for future projects. Upcoming studies at CEHCUP will aim to test different AR educational information delivery models and their effectiveness.
Geana said he strongly believes that immersive display technology is the future. To that end, CEHCUP is hosting its first ever research exhibition with entirely virtual research posters showcasing studies in health communication by doctoral students, faculty, and alumni. The AR event will take place February 15-March 15 at the William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications. A smartphone or tablet is all that is needed to experience the immersive research exhibition.
For most study participants, the experiment was their first exposure to a mixed reality environment. The novelty factor and excitement of exploring a virtual 3D model were the main causes of the lower information retention observed in the AR group compared to those exposed to video, Geana said. As students become more accustomed to mixed reality as part of everyday life, the novelty factor of this technology will likely decrease. Therefore, the authors argue that a better understanding of its potential and more effective use in education is increasingly important.
Image Credit: Center for Excellence in Health Communications to Underprivileged Populations