“Virtual reality” isn't the only tech on campus. Colleges are now using “augmented reality.” And it’s pretty awesome.
Colleges and universities are constantly experimenting with and adopting new technologies to stay competitive. One such technology is virtual reality, which schools are using to help students explore their campuses in an immersive way. Another related technology that is equally exciting but has received less attention is augmented reality.
Schools are using augmented reality to enhance students’ on-campus and educational experiences by adding digital elements to the real world. There are several ways users can experience augmented reality, the most common being mounted headsets and apps that work in conjunction with a smartphone camera.
Below are some of the best ways colleges and universities are using augmented reality to interact with students.
The University of Wisconsin—Madison
One common way schools are using augmented reality is as an educational tool. One example of this comes from The University of Wisconsin—Madison. To take advantage of augmented reality, the school created a situated documentary called “Dow Day.”
A situated documentary reenacts historical events in the context of where they actually took place. In this case, students could view digital content via augmented reality in locations relevant to the 1967 Dow Day Protest, a student demonstration against the Vietnam War.
During the augmented reality experience, students are thrust into the role of a journalist interviewing campus protesters and officials while viewing historical footage. By using their smartphone, students are able to point their cameras at specific locations on campus and see through augmented reality what was going on at that exact spot during the protest.
Community College of Beaver County
Community College of Beaver County (CCBC) in Center Township, Pennsylvania, was one of the first schools to adopt augmented reality. Students at CCBC can download an app to their smartphones and use it to experience content such as video, animation, audio, and websites. The app also lets users access picture slideshows and video content from the school’s digital publications, as well as building directories that are triggered by the app before they enter the building.
Cal Poly Pomona
The California State Polytechnic University at Pomona, or Cal Poly Pomona, offers visitors an interactive tour that incorporates augmented reality. By downloading an app and pointing their smartphone at various points throughout the campus, students can learn about the historical significance of different locations, or see what different buildings may have looked like in the past, along with a timeline of how and when they changed.
Examples include the story of “the great pig-napping of 1969,” which users can experience with augmented reality when they visit the “swine unit.” Also, students can view what the student center looked like in 1974, when the school used to have its own ice cream shop there, using augmented reality at the location.
Colleges are also using this technology to reach students before they even arrive on campus. In an effort to capture students’ attention, Simpson College placed an ad banner that incorporated augmented reality technology at a busy, nearby mall. People were prompted to download the Aurasma app to view the banner’s embedded “aura” (the industry term for an augmented reality experience).
Using the app, people could point their smartphone’s camera at a trigger image on the banner and a video would begin to play on their phone screen, outlining what a student’s experience attending Simpson College might be like.
Danny Fast, a digital content specialist at Simpson College, says that there are many other potential uses for augmented reality. It could facilitate things like “guided tours, [and not] just campus tours, but guided tours within classrooms, such as biology, astrology and reenactments of events, immersive learning, marketing.”
Colleges and universities have always been incubators for new ideas, so it’s no surprise that this new technology is taking off in higher ed.