Ahead of the launch of our MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), Caspar Thykier (Zappar co-founder & CEO) takes a look at the role of augmented reality in learning.

Caspar Thykier, Co-founder & CEO, Zappar

One of the most exciting areas of work we get to do at Zappar is in education and training. Augmented reality, it turns out, is a great tool for active learning. There are some fantastic case studies from the enterprise sector that show how the use of AR as instructional overlays in training facilities helps make complex problems easier to understand through visualisation; helps increase confidence through applied learning; decreases time to competence thereby saving time in training; and increases the level of recall and deep learning.

We wanted to take this empirical evidence and the notion of ‘active learning through doing’ and see how we could open it up to people of all ages and technical abilities. It’s part of our mission to democratise augmented reality and help encourage the next generation of digital creatives in an increasingly ‘mixed reality’ world. And so for the past couple of years now we’ve been working with schools and institutions; putting our ZapWorks authoring tools in the hands of children as young as 9 years of age to see what they can do with our platform.

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Students using ZapWorks in an ICT class.

ZapWorks has a number of entry points which include ZapWorks Widgets and ZapWorks Designer. Both these tools use simple drag-and-drop interfaces to import content. With ZapWorks Designer you can arrange your content on a given image (a bit like with PowerPoint) to produce an augmented reality experience. So you don’t need any coding ability at all. The beauty is that once you’ve created your AR experience you can preview and publish it instantly to view through the free Zappar app. This means that it’s a really simple, easy and effective tool for kids who are just starting out on computers and getting familiar with how to access different files and produce simple content.

What we’ve observed is that using ZapWorks to develop content is only part of the fun. Children, not surprisingly, gravitate towards any class activities that involve iPads and technology (it might frighten us as parents but that’s the modern world). So whether they're interacting with digitally enhanced learning materials or viewing and testing their own content they’re instantly engaged. When set a task to create their own AR enabled poster on the given topic they’re studying in class (the Egyptians for instance) in groups they’re also learning other important skills: team work to make group decisions about the direction of the task; practical application of the knowledge they’ve learnt in class not only about Egyptians but using computers to access files, search for information and create a good poster design; curation of content to deliver a compelling narrative; and finally presentation skills when showing their work back to the rest of the class and their parents at home. Augmented reality isn’t a substitute for learning or great teaching in this context, it’s a complimentary aid that encourages learning, inspires children and helps teachers. We’ve seen that time and again.

It’s why we’re delighted that we’ve been given the opportunity to work with Instructure’s Canvas Network to design a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) specifically aimed at STEM learning. This 10-module open course introduces children to augmented reality and teaches them about the water cycle (a key STEM topic). Their mission is to create and develop their own AR poster on the water cycle using ZapWorks. We’ve worked alongside our great partners at StoneOak Media with whom we’ve co-created AR activity books aimed at STEM learning in the US. This Zappar Powered course gives them all the information they need to perform this task and is free. The great news is that we’re already seeing 100s of people signing up to the course.

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Caspar with his daughter Daisy who’s creating her augmented reality poster.

There’s no doubt in our mind that AR, VR and MR are here to stay and have created a new canvas and way for us to interact as well as exploring new virtual worlds. Our focus is in creating the best tools to allow the next generation of digital creatives to explore this brave new world and ready themselves for it. When applied in the classroom and teaching environment as a visualisation tool the possibilities are endless. Our work with Instructure and The Canvas Network is only the start of our exploration into education. If you’re interested in finding out more please do get in touch at contact@zappar.com.

Check out the “Zappar Powered STEM Learning Using Augmented Reality” MOOC.