Augmented and Virtual Reality in Education — Part 2: Higher Ed


The Arts

In nearly every area of education, creation is taught on the shoulders of the past. Perhaps more than most, the arts, whether it be painting, music, theatre, or writing, find themselves in this position.

Studying “the greats” in any art field is instrumental for learning concepts and honing one’s craft. Whether you’re learning about Van Gogh, studying Beethoven’s creation process, or trying to divine Sylvia Plath’s inspiration, all further the next generation’s creations.

However, it is very difficult to learn about the full scale of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel through books, photos, or even documentaries. Being told the project was an immense effort taking years to tackle, regardless of how many sources agree, is a sad substitute for standing in the space and seeing the immensity for oneself.

AR/VR in higher education, art

Virtual reality will allow students to experience these spaces as if they were there, but at much less cost than a timely and expensive trip. And, while I can hardly state virtual reality can truly replace a real-life adventure to see some of history’s best, it is an invaluable option for students who cannot make such a trip.

The same is true for all other art-related fields of study. Instead of a student studying Bach’s Fugue in G Minor by way of only recordings, perhaps it is beneficial for a student to sit at an organ with an AR wearable at his/her disposal.

In this scenario, an augmented reality overlay allows the student learning the piece to see the keys depressing as the music progresses, better connecting the creation and product.

AR/VR in higher education, music
Image courtesy

Whether it’s allowing a student to play alongside the Philharmonic, travel to a location which inspired an important literary piece, or overlaying historic symbolism on a work for study, both AR and VR are destined to become a crucial tool in the education of our future creators.

Augmented and virtual reality in higher education

Trade Schools

It’s time to pack up our dorm rooms for a moment, as we’re making a career change and enrolling in a trade school.

There is a whole classification of physically-based careers taught to a slew of students all hoping to keep their digits and limbs intact for as long as possible. While it is not always the case that trade schools teach solely potentially-dangerous subject matter, there are quite a few fields where this is the case.

(Yes, the below examples may also be found at university levels, but for the sake of categorization of primarily hands-on trades, they’ve been put here.)


Take electrical engineering as an example. I, for one, would prefer to learn the ins and outs of the basics prior to electrocuting myself. It is, of course, true that current curriculums have safety in mind. However, when tools come about that will allow students a more hands-on experience in a safe environment, then students and instructors, alike, are able to feel more confident when moving toward real-life applications.

By way of “reality” programs, a student may completely wire a new house without needing a physical home in which to do so. Imagine needing a new home for each student, and for each to learn similarly, these homes would need to be identical.

That idea is preposterous until we utilize a virtual reality home which can be reset at will, or perhaps we have a real in-progress building which utilized augmented reality, instead. Both new options save time, resources, and money while providing students with a better learning opportunity.


Air traffic control is another great example of how virtual and augmented reality could be useful in training. If you’ve ever watched an episode of Air Disasters, you’ve seen how appropriate responses from a human in a tower can literally be the difference between the life and death of an entire occupancy of an aircraft.

Certainly, a variety of unfortunate scenarios are put forth toward the students in order to educate on potentially disastrous results, but there is a difference between seeing a fake crash on a radar and seeing one outside the windows of your tower.

Augmented and virtual reality in ATC

Not all controllers work with aircraft they can physically see, of course, but for those who do, life-like simulations by way of augmented or virtual reality can help legitimize the lessons and future orders they give to pilots.


You’ve got your nearly fifty pounds of gear on, and you’re plowing into a burning building as a training exercise. The dense smoke and radiating heat fill your field of view, and you’re trying to make sure you save all the living beings while managing the blaze.

In many cases, this training can only go so far. Facilities are unable to manipulate the buildings to house different layouts, and in order for real fire to take place, abandoned or forefit buildings must be acquired.

If we implement a virtual or augmented reality exercise, though, there are near limitless scenarios to be used to ensure the safety of our local heros when they are forced into dangerous situations.

Augmented and virtual reality in firefighting
Royal Australian Navy

Virtual reality can allow for students to enter a virtual blaze, but augmented reality can allow the blaze to be placed over an existing home, creating a more life-like experience.

With both, scripts might be taken from actual fire situations which previously produced harmful outcomes, from which others can now learn appropriate courses to take should the same situation arise in the future.

Other, potential deadly scenarios, such as backdrafts and compromised ceilings/floors, can be executed and shown in ways not previously available since the danger of just teaching such things in real life proposes safety concerns.

Augmented and virtual reality in firefighting
ADMS-Fire simulation video

Thankfully, this type of training is not a future fantasy. Companies, such as ADMS-Fire are already utilizing virtual reality in training. The program the Royal Australian Navy utilizes even simulates heat in specialized suits.


Test scenarios could, potentially, evolve as well. Entire situations could be imposed upon students to fully assess their skills in less-than-perfect situations. Perhaps you have an electrician attempting to work in a flood-based situation. Or, maybe you test a firefighting student’s ability to prioritize by putting helpless victims in separate fire-laden rooms.

Real-world, dangerous scenarios can now be taught in safe environments via augmented and virtual reality. Utilizing these in training helps instructors, students, and future civilian bystanders a better chance for positive outcomes.

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