Virtual & Augmented Reality in the eLearning Classroom

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are becoming common in eLearning classrooms, especially when teaching healthcare topics like medicine and nursing. Mobile technology and marketing campaigns are also using AR and VR to engage users and drive points home. Furthermore, virtual simulation is impacting other areas of life, helping people learn, engage with their surroundings, and improve their decision-making skills. Whether used for educational purposes or for entertainment, visual augmentation is already far-reaching.

Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the Medical Field


Nursing is an important role in healthcare, and those interested in nursing careers are seeking out more education than what’s required by pursuing advanced medical degrees. They’re looking at different types of education that vary from the norm, too, like blogs, podcasts and long-distance telehealth through eLearning classrooms. According to Western Governors University, “Changes in nursing education are likely to be directly tied to advances in technology. The way nurses learn is directly influenced by the technology available to teach them.”


According to a survey from Wolters Kluwer, 65% of nursing education programs use some type of virtual simulation. The demand for nursing education has increased, but there aren’t enough clinical sites for training, which is why digital learning has risen up to meet the need. Upon completing their programs, many nurses are prepared to provide hands-on care to patients.


One type of digital training has the trainee wear a pair of VR goggles, then places them into a real-life situation where they have to make decisions in order to treat or save a patient. The animations used in the simulation can interact with and respond to the medical student as they give directions and make decisions. AR is different from VR because it superimposes digital images onto real-world surroundings instead of placing the user into a 100% virtual simulation. For medical training, AR can be used to create a digital overlay of organs on a mannequin.  

Augmented Reality and Mobile Development


Since AR isn’t as immersive as VR, goggles aren’t normally used. Instead, an AR scene can be created through a mobile phone. Remember the overnight Pokemon Go craze? That’s an example of AR. You hold your phone up to a normal scene in front of you, like your street, and AR simulations appear on the screen, making it look like the characters are actually on the street you’re standing on.


In the medical field, AR is used in more serious ways. For example, AR glasses can superimpose a patient’s vitals in front of the nurse or doctor, seemingly floating in the air. The medical professional won’t have to remember everything they just glanced at on a chart, and they’ll now be able to quickly make informed decisions. For students, AR can be used to closely analyze and manipulate the human body to learn about it without the need for cadavers.


AR is helping with all types of education, medical and beyond. For example, if you’re traveling or hiking, the PeakFinder app can show you the names of the mountains that you’re looking at, as well as elevation information. With the WWF Free Rivers app, you can experiment with sustainable development plans to protect the environment. There’s also the I-Mechanic app, which uses AR technology to help you work on your specific car.

The Reach of Virtual Simulation


AR and VR simulations put students in sophisticated, realistic situations — the closest they’ll get to an actual real-life situation while still practicing making the best choices in-the-moment. Virtual simulation is extending into other areas of our lives, too. For example, Amazon has an AR tool that lets you view furniture in your home before you buy it. AR may also be used for advertising in the future — you could put your phone up to a city street and see a completely branded overlay that promotes a new movie, for example. Mobile phones are perfect for this type of technology because they’re already outfitted with so much tech themselves, including advanced cameras, GPS and machine learning capabilities.


Regardless of use, AR and VR have the same idea at their core: the best way to learn (and remember what you’ve learned) is through firsthand experience. The same goes for creating memorable experiences, which is why AR is being used in marketing, like that Amazon feature. Trust plays a huge role in landing new customers, and the more power you can put in the customer’s hands, the better.

Final Thoughts


eLearning has come a long way from online chatrooms to connect students and shared hubs where teachers post assignments. Virtual simulations are now being used in place of field trips, lectures and the need for animals or bodies in laboratories. AR and VR are more widespread than ever before, and it seems that as the technology evolves and is improved, its numerous uses will only grow.

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