Wu, H., Lee, S.W., Chang, H., & Liang, J.C., (2013). Current status, opportunities, and challenges of augmented reality in education. Computers & Education, 62, 41-49.


The term ‘augmented reality’ (AR) has various definitions and interpretations.  The authors work to delineate AR within the spectrum of other related virtual reality technologies. Subsequently, they analyze the current and potential status of AR within education-related disciplines.  Because of the currently unknown overall utility of AR, the term should not be associated with a specific technology, but rather a concept defined by a combination of real and virtual information which coexist in integrated form (P. 42).  Broll et al. (2008) splits characteristics of AR into three spectral dimensions, namely ‘immersion’, ‘ubiquity’ and ‘multiplicity’ (P. 43), where AR fits into a particular segment range of each spectrum.  In the past, AR was considered nearly synonymous with head mount display (HMD) technology, however that notion has been reconsidered with newer types of AR such as smartphone mixed reality technology.

There are unique affordances involved in AR education, which primarily come from meshing physical interactions and digital objects into learning scenarios.  Mobile AR matches this capability with other technological affordances such as portable computing, social interactivity, context sensitivity and individuality.  It also affords visualization of abstract or invisible phenomena which can enhance immersion (P. 43).  Immersion can enhance interest and clarity of an otherwise ethereal concept and can contribute to curiosity and motivation.  The interactive qualities and spatial properties of virtual objects can enhance skill acquisition, spatial abilities, and psychomotor-cognition (P. 46).  While there are countless affordances supplied by AR utilization, we are currently in an early research/development phase, which limits the level of understanding and therefore educational adoption of the medium (P. 48).

Key Points

  •  AR Definition
    • Conceptual rather than technological-based, allows mix of real and digital information.  On the general spectrum of reality-virtuality, AR is on the reality edge with supportive virtual information, whereas virtual reality is on the opposing virtuality edge with virtual-based environment being supported by real information.
  • Effects on Learning
    • Interactivity with digital objects enables skill acquisition, visualization, increased interest, enhanced spatial ability, direct feedback cues, psychomotor-cognitive skills.
  • Issues
    • We are in an early phase of research and development, there are potential resistances in formal education/curricula, specialized vs. generalized (mobile phone) AR technology constraints must be weighed toward effective utilization.

Design Principles

  • Interactivity
    • Within a learning environment, level of interactivity with virtual environment and objects should be assessed.  Level of teacher involvement and required social interaction between peers should also be analyzed.
  • Technical affordances
    • Presents highly context sensitive information, 3D content perspective, feeling of immersion and presence, visualization, immediacy due to direct cue feedback and interactivity.
  • Adoption feasibility
    • Proper matching of curriculum, proof of value to institution and teachers, adaptable teaching methodology, age-appropriate technology and content.

Learning approaches

  • Various roles of teachers and students such as playing a detective or scientist, collaborative learning with different student roles in dynamic simulations.
  • Location-based learning (think Pokemon Go but more education-based)
  • Game-based, problem-solving based, and studio-based learning.

 Discussion Questions

  1. Which subjects do you think would best showcase the capabilities of AR in the classroom, and why?
  2. What are some practical drawbacks of using mobile phones as a source of an AR-based educational tool?
  3. Do you think AR will face harsh institutional skepticism/criticism as a valid pedagogical method?

 Additional Resources




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