Near Future Teaching Video Post #6: Augmentation

augmentation scaledIn one of the last few instalments from the Near Future Teaching project , we turn our attention to a theme that might feel more science fiction than near future. It is a theme that resonated for many, and surfaced both concerns and optimism for the future of learning at the University. And it is a theme that has moved beyond science fiction and into a nuance largely lacking in media reports about the future of learning assisted by technology. This week’s theme focuses on augmentation and the potential benefits (and dangers) of the quantified student being generated by the larger datafication of society. It explores the immersive potential of augmented and virtual realities, and how these all might align with the values of the University of Edinburgh.

Some see the benefits of augmentation extending to the subject of last week’s post on lectures, with further benefits to student development and accessibility:

 One of the things that I think that will happen is there will be a massive uptake in the use of augmented reality. The ability to have someone giving a lecture and have supplementary notes pop up where people can see them and things like that. Or where they’re working from notes, for those who have hearing difficulties, they can have a rough transcript of what’s being said so they can keep up. It can help with accessibility issues for people to learn, for people to develop and build themselves up.

–  David Creighton-Offord, Information Services

Others see augmentation in lights of its capacity to illustrate concepts or extend learning with further context:

Augmented reality might be a thing by then. So that’s actually something I’m really excited about with regards to teaching. And I can see applications, for example, a physics class. Where you start throwing things and calculating trajectories and stuff like that. Even literature classes, when you see a book, you see the cover and your glasses automatically pull up all the information related books.

–  Ana Hibert, PhD Student, Education

Others see the potential for simulations and role playing scenarios, particularly in disciplines such as veterinary sciences, where issues of risk can be incredibly problematic:

If we could possibly have something where we’re using these monitors for anaesthesia, but we could take them and use them on simulators. Use them virtually and that we can manipulate things they are looking at. We can put heart rate up, we can put blood pressure down and then ask the student, well if this was a real case, what would you do? So when I was having a real dog and a real monitor and real things happening, we have a virtual dog and a virtual monitor where we can give the students problems. And see if they can work out what might be causing it and how they would fix it, that’s what I’d like to see.

– Fiona Strachan, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies

Ultimately, there was little indication that any of those we spoke to were having difficulty in articulating the potential benefits of augmentation, particularly as it applied to augmented and virtual realities, and specifically those that applied to teaching. All of this speaks to a larger identity for the University of Edinburgh “and that comes back to the core need. We are a university that researches, but we also teach.”

This week’s theme of augmentation has further revealed some of the values emerging from this Near Future Teaching work, which will be the subject of the final instalments appearing in the next few weeks.

Michael Gallagher

Dr Michael Gallagher is a member of the Centre for Research in Digital Education at Moray House and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to mobile for development (M4D). His research focus is on mobility, mobile learning, and digital education to support teaching and learning in the humanities in higher education, particularly in the Asia Pacific and sub-Saharan African regions.

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