Extended reality (XR) technologies like augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) are transformative tools that are changing the way students access key information and skills in medical programs. Unlike lecture, books or video, XR allows students to master material through interactivity and deeper exploration.
Educators and trainers are increasingly incorporating extended reality (XR) technologies in their programs, and it’s not just because of their convenience or easy adaptability to COVID-19 distance learning protocols. XR-based tools are an excellent fit for students with different learning styles.
According to one study, 65% of students are visual learners and another 5% are experiential learners. Traditionally, both groups have been underserved by conventional classroom materials, which are geared toward verbal learning. XR bridges that gap and gives a much wider range of students the resources they need to excel.
XR For Visual Learners
Visual learners are obvious beneficiaries of XR learning because XR-supported lessons allow them to master new information via lifelike simulation instead of only textbooks or slide decks. Rather than being limited to 2D images on a screen or page, visual learners can utilize 3D models depicted in VR or MR, which offer varying degrees of interactivity. XR can massively increase the pace and depth of learning.
XR for Experiential Learners
Experiential (and even tactile) learners gain by using XR. For everything from learning Newton’s law of motion to exploring anatomy, XR can provide an effective lesson where traditional teaching methods might fall short of meeting these students’ needs. XR also serves as a much more effective preparation for real-world situations in the healthcare industry than the current standard curricula. By working through a diagnostic process with a holographic patient, for example, students can see symptoms on a realistic “person” rather than as a static shot in a textbook.
Aside from providing a higher quality of education, experiential learning with XR has been shown to increase the motivation to learn, and people who train in these environments rate their learning experiences more positively than those who do not.
XR Addressing Learning Challenges
Because of how effective XR can be at increasing learning motivation and improving outcomes, XR is being investigated as a potentially groundbreaking tool for people with dyslexia, ADHD or an autism spectrum disorder, who tend to have lower levels of motivation and fewer positive impressions about the learning process. In particular, learners who struggle with executive dysfunction disorders like ADHD may find that the increased personalization and interaction of XR-based lessons help address their struggles with maintaining orientation and focus.
Similarly, learners with dyslexia have benefited from AR lessons, which allow them to virtually manipulate their environment while learning new vocabulary. XR may also be useful for students with autism spectrum disorder because the technologies allow for representing complex information in a variety of different formats.
An important caveat when using XR with those who have learning challenges is that XR can sometimes provide students with more information than they can process, leading to information overload and disengagement. This is especially true in the context of scientific or technical material. Thus, teachers of STEM material need to be careful with the length and depth of lessons that incorporate XR experiences.
The Future of XR Learning for Different Learning Styles
In a few short years, XR has revolutionized the cutting edge of education. As educators and trainers learn from experience where XR is the most effective for their pupils, XR curricula will become more sophisticated and able to benefit an even greater variety of students. Auditory and haptic learners, for example, are not well-served by current options, and future developments in XR will address that shortcoming. But, XR as it is now is still a powerful, compelling solution for making complex technical topics accessible to more students than ever before.
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