Seeing is believing: harnessing the power of augmented reality for learning and development
Plenty of L&D pros confess to keeping an eye on new technology with the aim of harnessing it for learning purposes. But, with many of us also facing pressure on time and cost, it’s not always possible to explore every technology that comes along.
Augmented reality (AR) could definitely fall into that ‘sounds interesting – but what’s in it for me?’ category. Using smartglasses and apps to bring information literally in front of learners’ eyes while leaving their hands free offers obvious opportunities for learning. But the space-agey sound of AR, plus the realities of daily life in L&D mean that many of us haven’t yet explored this technology fully.
So, we asked Raphael Scheuerer of SiyonaTech, host of our Cyber Chats with Lead Learners webinar on 25 May, to outline how Augmented Reality is already working for Learning and Development.
What is Augmented Reality?
‘When we talk about smartglasses and augmented reality we’re essentially talking about “putting digital information on top of the real world”,’ Raphael says. Think of visiting a museum with a pair of smartglasses that can give you more information about the exhibits as you see them. Not just extra commentary but 3D animations showing the workings inside those exhibits or demonstrating them in use.
Now think of bringing that deep real-time insight into the workplace. Tasks where remote support is needed – especially for complex tasks where hands-free assistance is essential – are an ideal candidate for L&D. But, as Raphael points out, any organisation where people are checking and testing or assembling and disassembling can benefit from this technology. AR can be your on-hand expert – whether that’s via smartglasses or an app.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
The most effective L&D is simple and unobtrusive – and that’s where Augmented Reality contrasts with some of the complex learning that’s out there.
‘We’ve all seen over engineered training programmes and an audience that simply didn’t engage or understand,’ Raphael says. His answer is to strip learning content back to its core, making it quicker to roll out and easier for learners to engage with. ‘This makes the content part of their information flow. It’s right in front of them, it’s part of their real world,’ he adds.
The increased cognitive activity – the holy grail of L&D – that AR presents is ultimately what makes it successful. When information is on hand, and learners have to process it to proceed with their task, they have no choice but to engage with it. Even better: in most cases they want to and enjoy making use of this ‘extra little help’ they’re provided with.
Augmented Reality clearly has an impact on learning – but how does this affect the wider business? ‘From my personal observations I’d say it’s the “can-do” attitude that is filtering through when an organisation introduces these solutions,’ explains Raphael.
‘At the moment it’s a phase of early adopters starting to implement things. But we’re seeing that even a small pilot programme or a proof-of-concept is seen as a highly attractive way to engage people much more than any form of more traditional learning/training.’
AR does sound a bit too good to be true, and Raphael notes that this is a problem for L&D pros pitching for it in their organisations. Decision makers can see it as unproven and expensive, and the options (do we need smartglasses or an app? will the glasses be durable? how do we make sure they’re dustproof?) too complex.
The solution is the good old business case plus an understanding of the range of technology available. Look at your learning goals and current challenges. Balance them with the increased ‘stickiness’ of learning and performance support information delivered via AR, the fewer repeats of training needed, reduced error rates and positive impact on company culture. If your organisation has an internal think tank on technology, so much the better. Start there for guidance on translating tech-speak into leader-friendly language.
Augmented Reality: the future
‘Given how rapidly technologies are changing these days (can anyone remember a world without iPhones?) the arrival of a technology most of us have only seen in Star Trek movies is a real game changer,’ says Raphael. ‘I’d even say that putting digital information, objects or videos on top of the real environment is only the next logical step when it comes to creating ‘the best of both worlds’ – the real one and the digital one.’
AR sounds futuristic and something for the millennials, but it’s based on an age-old concept: that seeing is believing. This works for everyone.
What would you like to know about how AR could work in your organisation? Post your questions below so that Raphael can address them in his webinar.