An alumnus of IIT Bombay and a topper at Bombay University in Operations Management, Dr. Sundar is a top-notch IT professional with a successful track record of nearly 32 years in Manufacturing, Logistics and BFSI domain. Dr. Sundar has over 12 years of academic/ teaching experience in various capacities. His academic affiliations include institutions like Manipal Academy, ICFAI Business School, Bombay University and VTU. The past five years Dr. Sundar held a senior academic leadership position. He has received ICT-CTO Excellence Award at SAARC Tech Summit organized by INFOCOM and CTO Forum in association with SAARC Chamber of Commerce in Dhaka. He also received Innovative CIO Award and BFSI Tech Maestro Award in the year 2016 from Bitstream Media House.
Humans are cognitive beings which means we are learning all the time by processing our environments through our senses. Learning assimilation can happen differently for different individuals –
Auditory Learners – These kinds of students learn best by listening. Paying attention to the lecturer, audio/video recordings, reading out notes or text aloud work best for them.
Visual Learners – These learners work best with visuals. Learning materials like graphics, charts, pictures, models can be used to help them learn and assimilate new information.
Tactile Learners – They assimilate information by engaging their touch senses. They usually love to take notes, highlight and underline key points.They may even like to doodle, illustrate or draw.
Kinesthetic Learners – These learners learn best by doing. Projects, experiments, industry visits, role plays are some activities they typically enjoy while also learning.
In traditional classroom settings, each of these methods are used to a certain extent and the students work individually and in groups to facilitate interactions and collective learning.
But with the global pandemic hitting in 2020 and everything turned virtual. From work, education, healthcare consults to shopping, entertainment, everything moved to virtual. In the learning and education sector, the opportunities to use the above forms of learning drastically reduced limiting student-educator interactions to audio/video meeting platforms.
The challenges of such a learning environment is to keep a student engaged and motivated to participate in the learning environment. It also meant that the learners did not have opportunities to use other ways of learning and had limited means to explore and experiment with different activities. This really helps us realise the need for using various technology solutions like Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality that really bring the learning to life.
What is Augmented Reality?
Imagine where you are currently sitting and able to experience the live match between Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal. This is the idea of Augmented Reality. The technology enhances the existing environment of the user with visual, auditory and other sensory elements added digitally. This creates endless opportunities in different fields for the users to participate, interact, learn, contribute and experience things that they may not be able to in reality.
This is different from Virtual Reality where a whole new virtual environment is created for a user to experience. Because Augmented Reality uses the existing environment and is not “made up” environments, the opportunities and experiences can feel very real and customised for each user.
What is interactive learning?
Interactive learning uses the benefits of active participation of the learners with the environment and being hands-on. The feedback they receive from the environment is what helps them learn and build on that learning. A simple example of this is a debate or discussion between two students. Being involved and attentive to the points made by one person guides the other person’s response and so on.
Where can Augmented Interactive Learning be used?
Augmented Reality can boost the learning in classroom learning and professional training by using the various forms of learning and also make it interactive by providing immediate feedback based on the choices made by the learner. Following are some ways AR can be used in this context:
Education – From geography to biology to history, the learning of theoretical subjects becomes more interesting when AR’s interactive methods are used. Replacing the traditional charts and atlas and maps, AR can help students experience the subject topic and reinforce the learning. Imagine being able to visit historical locations, learning geographical terrains by visualizing them in reality, and watching the different organs of the body in 3D. The precaution here for educators would be to use other supplementary materials for ensuring learning and not letting the students get carried away by the experience.
Professional Training – Training of freshers in industries like hospitality, manufacturing, quality control, professional sports training can all be made possible using AR. This ensures that organisation resources are trained no matter where they are physically present and can also be trained for possible scenarios without having to undergo this training in real-time. They can also be trained for emergency situations which may not happen often but are important anyway.
Surgical Training – AR can provide surgeons the opportunity to visualize and even practice surgical procedures without putting a life in danger. What is currently done in theory or cadavers can be done on interactive AR technology allowing the possibility to understand consequences of certain critical decisions without putting a patient in harm’s way. This also increases the possibilities to visualize the complicated cases and getting to practice on the AR model of the patient before actually performing the surgery.
Disaster Management Training – Disaster management and rescue training have largely relied on theory and simulation without much understanding of how the situation might actually play out in reality. With the help of AR’s interactive capability, this training can become highly efficient in training the disaster response teams to respond in the most effective manner when a disaster strikes. Responses to floods, cyclones, pandemic, political unrest or war can be made powerful if the personnel are trained in these situations in near-reality conditions which is where AR will play a big role.
First Responders Training – During any emergency, the first responders are the firefighters, police, or the paramedics. They are constantly dealing with delicate and difficult situations which are bound to affect the lives of those involved. The training for these personnel can also be undertaken using AR’s real-life simulation with interactive capabilities that can help the training process be as close to reality as possible. This can ensure the emergency responders are trained to respond in the best possible manner when encountered with real emergencies.
While the opportunities are many in the education and learning space, the adoption of the technology is yet to happen at a large scale to also make it cost effective in the long run. It is also important to bear in mind that while using AR/VR technologies, the ethical side of the technology is also taken into account so as to not compromise the identity and the mental health of those who might end up using the technology.
Future of Augmented Learning
As more and more use cases are being experimented to understand application of Augmented technologies in interactive learning, the application of this technology is being found highly effective in teaching and learning space. This coupled with improving mobile technology and hardware capabilities, the use of AR is going to be the next big thing in the education space. It is the right time for educational institutes and the corporates to invest for the future growth.