Benefits and barriers of AR in Education

This text includes content from from Augmented Reality blog, written by Kendra Grant, Jenelle Kresak, Kate Ropchan, Scott Tammik and Pamela Jones

As described, Augmented Reality is a three part concept that includes 1) the overlay of digital information, 2) on the real world, 3) in a contextualized or location-based manner. This differs from Virtual Reality (VR) wherein a person is somehow immersed into an entirely artificial environment. Along the continuum between AR and VR exists Augmented Virtuality, a concept in which real world information is overlaid onto a digital environment (Milgram, Takemura, Utsumi and Kishino, 1994, p.283.) Nintendo Wii and XBox360º Kinect are examples of augmented virtuality. For a more complex taxonomy, Hugues, Fuchs and Nannipieri (2011) create a functional taxonomy that distinguishes varying artificial environments from different versions of augmented perception (p.51).

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Wu, Lee, Change and Liang (2012) contend that the educational affordances of AR can improve three aspects of learning. The task is enhanced by enabling contextual 3D learning and by making the invisible visible. Additionally this provides increased authenticity for the task being completed. The role of the learner can be enhanced by AR by increasing his or her sense of presence, immediacy and immersion. Further, this improves student engagement. Finally, by overlaying information on a specific location AR will allow for ubiquitous, collaborative and situated learning and a bridging between traditional, formal learning environments and more informal, appropriated learning environments (p.43). In this regard, learning is contextualized to a greater degree. Constructivist, discovery-based learning, while certainly not a unique affordance, is also achievable with AR (Yuen, Yaoyuneyong, and Johnson, 2013, p.385.)

Augmented reality has already filled several niches in education. Medical education and complex equipment repair can be taught by enabling students to visualize, in 3D, what’s under the hood. Practically, students can wear head mounted displays for hands-free operations or a device for less active learning.

Issues relevant to the use of AR in education include the possibility of cognitive overload, the frequent need to multitask and potential difficulties associated with the complexity of the task (Wu et al, 2012, p.41). Additionally, in some situations students might experience moments of confusion regarding the perception of reality and virtuality. (Wu et al, 2012, p.47).

Every technology has its dark side. Could our future look like this?

The dangers of AR

In a paper titled “Death by Pokémon GO”, researchers at Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management claim the game caused “a disproportionate increase in vehicular crashes and associated vehicular damage, personal injuries, and fatalities in the vicinity of locations, called PokéStops, where users can play the game while driving.” ( Faccio and McConnell, 2018). Using data from one municipality, the paper extrapolates what that might mean nationwide and concluded “the increase in crashes attributable to the introduction of Pokémon GO is 145,632 with an associated increase in the number of injuries of 29,370 and an associated increase in the number of fatalities of 256 over the period of July 6, 2016, through November 30, 2016.” The authors extrapolated the cost of those crashes and fatalities at between $2bn and $7.3 billion for the same period. Furthermore, more than one in three surveyed advanced Internet users would like to edit out disturbing elements around them, such as garbage or graffiti (Peddie, 2017). They would like to even modify their surroundings by erasing street signs, billboard ads, and uninteresting shopping windows. So it seems that AR is as much a threat to companies as it is an opportunity. Although, this could be a nightmare to numerous brands that do not manage to capture consumer imaginations it also creates the risk that the wearers of augmented reality glasses may become unaware of surrounding dangers. Consumers want to use augmented reality glasses to change their surroundings into something that reflects their own personal opinions. Around two in five want to change the way their surroundings look and even how people appear to them.

Next, to the possible privacy issues that are described below, overload and over-reliance issues are the biggest danger of AR. For the development of new AR-related products, this implies that the user-interface should follow certain guidelines as not to overload the user with information while also preventing the user from over-relying on the AR system such that important cues from the environment are missed (Azuma, 1997). This is called the virtually-augmented key. Once the key is ignored, people might not desire the real world anymore.

The concept of modern augmented reality depends on the ability of the device to record and analyze the environment in real time. Because of this, there are potential legal concerns over privacy. While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution allows for such recording in the name of public interest, the constant recording of an AR device makes it difficult to do so without also recording outside of the public domain. Legal complications would be found in areas where a right to a certain amount of privacy is expected or where copyrighted media are displayed.

In terms of individual privacy, there exists the ease of access to information that one should not readily possess about a given person. This is accomplished through facial recognition technology. Assuming that AR automatically passes information about persons that the user sees, there could be anything seen from social media, criminal record, and marital status (TRoesner et al., 2014).

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Teachers need to consider any technology’s usability before determining how to use it in the classroom. The usability of a technology is the set of Human Computer Interactions (HCI) involved and can be observed by performance with the technology, mistakes made and satisfaction of the participants (Cuendet, Bonnard, Do-Lenh and Dillenbourg, 2013, p.556). The first level of usability is dependent on the individual, their previous technological experience and the cognitive load that they can handle while attempting to engage with Augmented Reality for the task at hand. The second level of usability acknowledges the interactions that happen between two or more users, through technology. In this level of usability, teachers can monitor the quality of conversation and the ease of taking turns between collaborators and the varying gestures responsible for making the AR function. The third, and most meta- level of usability are the constraints of the classroom environment itself. This has been termed the orchestration load. Orchestration load is the management of all aspects of a pedagogical environment, including people, events and their intra- and inter-actions (Cuendet et al, 2013, p.558). Orchestration load will decrease if the levels of usability are optimised within a classroom.

Cuendet et al (2013) outline five principles to consider when designing a learning environment incorporating AR (p.559.) Each principle is intended to decrease the orchestration load required of an educator in order to make the implementation of AR a feasible proposition. These five principles are integration, awareness, empowerment, flexibility and minimalism (Cuendet et al, 2013, p.559.)

  • Integration: Will the AR activity fit in with the work flow of the classroom? Can data move to and from the technology easily and purposefully?
  • Empowerment: Does the teacher have the capability to manage the classroom amid the buzz and hype of using AR?
  • Awareness: How will a teacher maintain a perspective on the gains made by individuals, without establishing individual programs?
  • Flexibility: Can the classroom environment adapt to the unexpected changes that can arise through the use of AR and other technologies?
  • Minimalism: Rather than provide features that will not be used, can the technology offer only what is needed at that moment?

If mobile learning affords students the ability to access their learning anytime and anywhere, Augmented Reality provides any mobile device user the ability to be anywhere, at anytime, and to access contextualized learning.


  • Azuma, R. T. (1997). A survey of augmented reality. Presence-Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 6(4), 355–385.
  • Cuendet, S., Bonnard, Q., Do-Lenh, S., & Dillenbourg, P. (2013). Designing augmented reality for the classroom. Computers & Education, 68, 557. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2013.02.015
  • Faccio, Mara; McConnell, John J. (2018). Death by Pokémon GO: The Economic and Human Cost of Using Apps While Driving. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3073723SSRN 3073723
  • Hugues, O., Fuchs, P., & Nannipieri, O. (2011). New augmented reality taxonomy: Technologies and features of augmented environment. (pp. 47-63). New York, NY: Springer New York. doi:10.1007/978-1-4614-0064-6_2
  • Peddie, J., 2017, Agumented Reality, Springer
  • TRoesner, Franziska, Tadayoshi Kohno, Tamara Denning, Ryan Calo, and Bryce Clayton Newell. “Augmented Reality.” Proceedings of the 2014 ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing Adjunct Publication – UbiComp ’14 Adjunct (2014). The University of Utah. Ubicomp. Web. 18 Aug. 2015.
  • Wu, H., Lee, S. W., Chang, H., & Liang, J. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers & Education, 62, 41-49. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.024
  • Yuen, S.C.Y., Yauyuneyong, G., & Johnson, E. (2013) Augmented Reality and Education: Applications and Potentials. In Huang, R., & Spector, J. M.(Eds.), Reshaping learning: The frontiers of learning technology in global context (385-414). New York: Springer Berlin Heidelberg.

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