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Immersive education... Not as far away as you might think!

Luke Ritchie, Head of Interactive Arts at Nexus Studios, takes a look at what the future holds for education

Posted by Hannah Vickers | February 18, 2017 | Secondary

By Luke Ritchie - Head of Interactive Arts, Nexus Studios

Let's imagine the future for a second. Secondary or even adult education is now fully attended from home via a VR headset. Primary and perhaps Secondary schools heavily utilize AR technology; students simply point their mobile phones at any object, a piece of text, picture or video to launch a limitless journey of learning potential. This is probably no further than 5-10 years away as the technology already exists to do this, it's now simply about acceptance and adoption. 

It's relatively easy when we talk about technology and education for it to quickly feel dystopian, so I'd like to focus on two areas and remind readers that platforms like Virtual Reality in the near future will be social platforms foremost. These new emerging technologies are interactive, which in turn means they're real-time. Essentially what real-time means is that the graphics are rendered every frame or every millisecond, which means we can change them live and have them adapt to human inputs. Any computer game you play is like this. So, in a traditional classroom setting, the pace is set by the teacher based on a class average. As we know, we all learn differently. Taking the lead from the success of online courses and setting your own pace is incredibly important. The ability to interact and navigate using these emerging technologies means we have the potential to design learning experiences which can be very focused narratives, where pace and depth are decided by the student. Yet these aren't websites or interactive whiteboards, these are immersive and augmented realities. 

Total immersion or even the augmentation of your reality offers an interesting opportunity for learning that we've never had before. If we take history as an example, we could immerse you into a 3D representation of any historical event. Inside that space, you could navigate around, either by walking or teleporting; from landmark elections to the industrial revolution or the Battle of Waterloo to the Blitz - any moment in history. But how is the learning different?

Inside the experience of augmented reality, everything is a rabbit-hole

Inside this experience, everything is a rabbit-hole. If you're listening to Queen Elizabeth I speech at Tilbury in 1588 at any moment you could pause the experience, select her, then open up a new window (next to her) that essentially is her Wikipedia page, to learn the cliff notes. However while reading you come across the Spanish Armada. Now you're below board with Sir Francis Drake just after the capture of a Spanish ship in the English Channel. And so on. 

This potential type of learning experience is nothing like watching a film. You'd be truly immersed in the narrative, but you'd be at the centre of it, able to visually experience it and unpack anything that is of interest to you. We know that we learn better visually, and this type of immersive learning is a whole new frontier for us to explore - you're led only by your curiosity. If we know that any hyperlink on a webpage can transport you to any destination on the internet, what happens when you can travel within stories learning in a completely new way, a long an endless multi-threaded array of possibilities. 

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