Magazine article Talent Development

THE EXPERIENCE: Using Augmented Reality to Engage Learners Isn't as Difficult as It Seems

Magazine article Talent Development

THE EXPERIENCE: Using Augmented Reality to Engage Learners Isn't as Difficult as It Seems

Article excerpt

What is augmented reality? That's a question I asked my manager as we discussed recent senior management requests. The senior managers said they wanted to "introduce something innovative to the department, maybe something like augmented reality." I had no idea what AR was, so I did what we all do when we don't know something--I googled it.

"Oh, AR is Snapchat," I said, furrowing my brow. But what is an insurance company going to do with face filters?

Sound familiar? You may have lived a version of that story where senior leaders want to implement innovative ideas that they briefly read about or heard about at a conference, but you have no idea where to even start.

AR is experiencing content superimposed over your existing environment. For example, imagine you are sitting in a movie theater waiting for your show to start. A prompt comes on the big screen telling you to open your smartphone camera and point it at the screen. When you do, an animated soda cup standing on the seat in front of you suddenly appears. The cup is giving instructions on where to find the concession stand. You look away from your smartphone back to the big screen, but the cup is not there--it only appears on your smartphone screen, superimposed on the seat right in front of you.

That's experiencing AR.

Museums and retail stores also have begun capitalizing on using AR to enhance the customer experience. For example, visitors to the Art Gallery of Ontario in Canada can see an entire exhibit of paintings come to life in AR via their smartphones. Likewise, IKEA and Target use AR to enable customers to visualize how a piece of furniture will look in their homes by tapping a button in the store's respective app. The item will appear on the screen as its true size and shape for customer review. Consumers get the information they need to make an informed decision, engage in a different way with the product, and have a little fun.

What if you could harness the engagement and fun of AR in a simple, inexpensive way in your learning initiatives? Could you have an impact on learners in a unique way? AR is a powerful engagement tool that enables talent development professionals to incorporate points of engagement and increase learning effectiveness throughout blended learning solutions.

AR at its simplest

AR is different than virtual reality in that people experience the latter while wearing a special headset that completely immerses them in a virtual environment. Often when AR comes up in conversation, most people think of science fiction movies such as Minority Report. In such highly entertaining movies, images appear in front of actors, and they use their hands to move them aside and around. While that is AR brought to viewers via Hollywood special effects, it's not the use case for talent development.

My familiarity with AR began with that initial conversation with my supervisor about innovation. A new creativity was sparked in me to find out more about what AR was as well as whether and how I could use it with learning content. I sought out opportunities to experience it firsthand and found some AR experts who had experience in L&D and friended them quickly. I also attended a learning conference workshop on how to create AR.

Then I started creating simple AR experiences with a web app. I sprinkled those experiences in as engagement points that would literally pop up in the curriculums. For example, as the participants moved through e-learning or classroom sessions, they would come upon an AR marker--a symbol indicating there is AR content for them to experience--scan it with their mobile device, and experience content through AR.

I created dozens of AR experiences centered around public information that we were already teaching employees, such as the organization's core values, company history, and details about cities where our offices are located. I displayed these public information AR experiences in the office hallways and featured them in all employee contests and in new-hire training scavenger hunt activities. …

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