Teaching with AR: 11 Ways to Enhance the Learning Experience

Written by JC Gonzalez

Teaching with AR offers several benefits that enhance the classroom experience. Within the education technology, or edtech, industry, AR is expected to exceed $5.3 billion by 2023. AR has the potential to replace paper textbooks, physical models, posters, and printed manuals. 

Here are 11 ways AR can enhance your students’ learning experience. Before we get into it, we’ll break down augmented reality and its potential. 


What is AR?

AR refers to the ability to view digital objects placed over our physical world. You can do this with the built-in cameras on your phone or tablet. There are also AR headsets and stationary AR displays. You’ll see the latter in some cars manufactured today using a head-up display.

A review of AR in medical education literature found that students find the technology fun and interesting. The testers reported an overall positive experience. AR can also improve students’ comprehension and retention of information. 

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11 Ways AR Enhances the Learning Experience

1. AR Is More Engaging to Learners

Students want to be captured by education. They want to feel like they are home playing video games. Augmented reality can do just that. It captures their imagination and shows them something that shouldn’t be possible. 

Researchers equipped a group of health science students with AR applications. Their goal was to check if using AR changed their learning experiences. The study found the following:

  • Attention increased 31%
  • Confidence increased 11%
  • Satisfaction increased 13%

Think of how much easier it would be to run a class when your students are 31% more attentive. Seeing satisfaction rates go up is also important. Students get to make public reviews about their school, class, and professor. These reviews impact funding and job security. 

2. Books Go from Passive to Active Learning Tools

Reading a textbook is no fun, it never has been. Learners should reference books, not memorize them. As passive learning became the normal way to teach, the expectation to read textbooks in full went up. 

Institutions are moving away from passive learning. They understand the importance of student engagement in learning. This is a powerful argument when looking to convince an education board, STEM and CTE directors, or other decision-makers.

Michael Jaber, coordinator of Instructional Technology, Sheboygan Area School District in Wisconsin, said the following after using AR in his classroom: “It changes their learning and perspective so much when they’re a part of it and it’s not just words on paper.

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Some new textbooks include AR markers or AR apps to enhance the material. You’ll be able to provide students an active learning experience that starts with a book but goes beyond. 

3. The Tech and Its Effects Are New and Exciting

Students today are digital natives. They were born into a digital world. Digital devices are integral to their developmental journey. According to the Pew Research Center, 95% of teens own or have access to a smartphone.

These are two examples of AR adding excitement to classrooms of two different levels: 

Young Learners

Use AR to show students the solar system over their desks. They will be able to see the planets in 3D, interact with them, and understand how they move. 

Teachers of the youngest learners can use apps like colAR Mix to have pages they’ve colored jump right out of the page and move in the third dimension. 

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Higher Education

It may be easy to believe higher ed students cannot get excited by technology but AR is proving this wrong. AR makes it possible for students to learn about historical events by placing structures over the physical landscape. Music students and engineering students can use AR applications to practice piano and put formulas to use. 

Membit, a geolocative photo sharing app that allows pictures to be placed and viewed in the exact location they were captured, recently partnered with Village Preservation for a new experience. 

The project is a living history lesson through the historic Greenwich Village in New York. Using AR, visitors can see historic pictures previously taken in the area in the exact location the photographs were snapped. 

4. The Learning Process is More Effective with AR

Some studies suggest that AR can help students learn skills faster. It’s much easier to understand a complicated problem when you can see the explanation over the problem itself. 

Math students unable to grasp a new concept may see the formula above a problem or they can see their answer temporarily including the steps to get to it. 

AR can also add a new dimension to field trips. According to Visible Body, museums like the Smithsonian and Kennedy Space Center use AR throughout their exhibits

5. Teaching with AR Improves Student Motivation

Student motivation is a major topic in our education system. Lack of motivation has always been an issue but as the pandemic forced schools to offer remote learning options, it has become an even larger problem.

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Unlock the full potential of AR and you’ll see your students regain motivation for the subjects you teach. Add an anatomy lesson in AR or introduce AR into a writing exercise. 

6. AR Prepares Learners for a Mixed Reality Future

Augmented reality is only the start when it comes to immersive technology. Virtual reality promises to move us into a mixed reality future. In this future, the digital and physical spaces will combine to form a new space. 

All the talk of Web3 and the metaverse show what this future could look like. It may be a world where we seamlessly move in and out of digital and physical worlds. If this is where we’re heading, adding AR to your classes now will help your students prepare. 

We cover the metaverse and how it will affect the professional world in a separate post. If you’re looking for more on that subject, we urge you to read through it. 

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7. AR Takes Anatomy Beyond the Frog

Depending on how long you’ve been alive, you may remember dissecting frogs in science class. The point is to teach young students the placement of organs within the body. It’s a practice that hasn’t always sat well with some students and parents. 

Thanks to AR, this experiment can be done without sacrificing frogs or other animals. It can also go beyond dissecting a frog and show different types of animals or even the human anatomy over an empty hospital bed. 

According to Inglobe Technologies, “students can see the life cycle of an animal they are studying, study a live specimen in AR and explore its organs, systems and vocabulary as if they were looking at the animal in the flesh.

8. AR Keeps Learners Safe Among Dangerous Elements

You can talk to learners about lots of different topics but some will have areas that are too dangerous to experience in the real world. With AR, those dangers can be minimized while still bringing them to life. You can give students a close look at a sulfur rock, or hardened lava from an erupting volcano. 

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Learners in more technical fields can see instructions directly over the equipment they are using to prevent accidents. Before turning a lever that controls dangerous liquids or gasses, students can see the exact steps they must take to safely operate the release valve.

9. AR Lets Educators Keep Students in the Real World

While virtual reality may get the bulk of attention when it comes to the future of learning, AR has a few benefits over VR that instructors favor. Key among them is the ability to keep students in the physical world. 

True VR is fully immersive. It takes the person wearing the headset out of their physical space and transports them into the world they see in the headset. This may be okay for some but others prefer their students remain in the very real classroom having real discussions.

Jay Van Buren, Founder and CEO of Membit, believes this is what sets AR apart from other emerging technologies. “Ten years from now, we will of course be using VR but we’ll be on AR all the time. AR will just be used for everything and we won’t even talk about it.” He continued, “the key power of AR is the reality part of augmented reality. It’s that relationship between the real world and the digital.

10 AR Has a Short Learning Curve

Student Use

With digital natives already spending so much time online, using AR apps on their phones requires little to no training. You should take time to explain the task but chances are you won’t spend too much time explaining to students how to use the technology. This will free you up to talk about the goals of the exercise instead.

Most AR apps come with a level of gamification involved, something your students also enjoy. Benefits of gamification include higher knowledge retention and better engagement. Take advantage and include things like badges and team challenges in your AR exercises. 

Teacher Use

You may not be a digital native but you’ve used computers and the web throughout your life and certainly in your career. While learning coding languages used in XR is a valuable skill, you can create AR experiences without coding thanks to applications like Reality Composer.

Reality Composer lets people create AR experiences using their preferred device, including their phone. It is one of the tools used in Edstutia’s Instructor Certification in XR program. You can check out the video below for a quick tutorial on creating an AR experience with only your phone. 

Create AR experiences right from your phone

11. AR Takes STEM and CTE Programs Further

The skills gap continues to grow and companies are looking for people who can accomplish the tasks they need. These tasks center on STEM and technology. 

As more schools focus on STEM courses, the funding increases for those areas in education. Use AR technology in your STEM classrooms to motivate students in new ways that feel unlike a traditional teaching experience. 

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Schools are also focused on career & technical education, or CTE. CTE programs are designed to teach students in-demand skills so they are better prepared to join the workforce when they finish school. Using AR shows young students the power of technology so they embrace emerging tech rather than fear it.

Incorporating AR into STEM and CTE programs enhances the learning experience and leads to a better program rollout. Students are engaged and experience technical growth from the beginning. If your school is reviewing STEM or CTE programs, now would be a good time to discuss incorporating AR into the curriculum. 

Teaching with AR – Wrap-Up

We are undergoing a transformation in how we interact with the digital world and while VR may still feel inaccessible to some, AR tech is already in our pockets. By teaching with AR, you can unlock its benefits to give your students a more engaging and more effective learning experience. 

Edstutia’s Instructor Certification in XR (ICXR) prepares professors and teachers to use emerging technologies in their programs. Learn more about how Edstutia can help you provide an immersive, engaging experience of your students.