Extended Reality (XR) in Learning and Teaching

Posted in: learning technology, TEL, virtual reality

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Extended Reality (XR) describes a range of immersive technologies (augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality) that can blend together the physical and virtual worlds.

Woman using a virtual reallity headset, sat in front of a laptop.

Following the publication of Jisc’s latest report on Extended Reality (XR) in Learning and Teaching I caught up with Nathan Taylor, a Specialist Research Technician in the Department of Psychology, who is currently developing, and supporting, the use of Virtual Reality (VR). I met Nathan by chance when we both turned up for a Lenovo product demo on campus (exciting I know!) and was fascinated to hear about his work. Do you know what’s going on in the VR space? I would guess that there are pockets of emerging practice that many of us don’t know about so I’m hoping this post might nudge people to feel like they can share their experiences and practices.

This is what I experienced last Friday when I attended a Jisc XR community meet up at the University of Manchester, where people from a variety of institutions came together to share ideas and describe their current work. Before I get to that, let me tell you what I learned from Nathan here at Bath.

Nathan supports students (PhD, MSc and BSc) who want to use VR in their research projects:

  • He manages a variety of VR headsets and their bookings. Lab rooms are available in 10W for students to practice, and to bring in research participants etc.
  • He trains staff/students when they use the VR kit and software for the first time.
  • He creates VR environments (using Unity and Unreal Engine) for use by researchers (and some PhD students also do this for themselves).  He packages them for deployment on ‘wireless’ headsets (for low resource environments) or for connected use with a laptop (for resource intensive environments).

Some of the projects Nathan has supported are:

  • Analysing people’s observation skills by placing them in a virtual nature hide and asking them to respond when they observe particular birds or their features.
  • Providing staff in the NHS with a VR headset during breaks, to see if a change of environment can reduce stress and aid relaxation, comparing the impact of a walk in nature to a walk around a cityscape.
  • A shark attack simulation comparing whether a virtual environment or flat screen view would induce the most fear.
  • Comparing memory between older and younger participants whilst navigating a virtual town.

As yet Nathan hasn’t supported the use of VR as a teaching resource, but during the Jisc XR meet there were a few examples of how the e-Learning Team from the Humanities Department, at the University of Manchester, have been trying out activities from freely available content (shared by Jonny Crook).

  1. Being immersed in a documentary film on Meta Quest called Notes on blindness to experience the cognitive and emotional experience of a person losing their sight.
  2. Exploring urban planning with a Meta Quest game called Wooorld (not a typo!) allowing students to virtually visit cities and landmarks from around the world.
  3. Using Immerse for language immersion training.
  4. Using Galup, a VR performance telling stories of real events from the past, to support de-colonising education for geographers.

Another example was from the Open University (Sarah Daniell) where distance learning students were offered the chance to have their online tutorials in a VR environment, rather than their typical online meeting space (in Adobe Connect which is similar to Zoom). The response from students was very positive and engagement levels were much higher than before.  In particular it was reported that students were more comfortable talking with their peers and participating in activities.

Are you using XR tools or software at the university? It would be good to hear from you so we can start to build a picture of XR practice, and hopefully share our experiences, so please get in touch (by contacting the TEL team) or post to the Extended Reality (XR) channel in the TEL Community of Practice MS Team. 


Back to the Jisc report I mentioned earlier. It reports on Extended Reality (XR) in Learning and Teaching and highlights some of the transformative potential of XR technologies in education. XR includes augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR).

Key findings from the report reveal:

Increased adoption: Since 2019, there's been a significant rise in the use of XR, especially in higher education (HE).  A number of institutions are moving beyond trials to applied use in various subjects.

Benefits: XR can offer opportunities for situated and experiential learning, enhancing student engagement and employability. It can support new pedagogical models and resource management.

Challenges: Cost, accessibility, and staff training remain barriers. Institutions need more funding, guidance, and evidence of XR's impact.

Future Interest: There's strong interest in expanding XR use, with a focus on collaboration, content development, and infrastructure.

The report concludes that XR is ready to revolutionise education, offering immersive and engaging learning experiences. However, addressing challenges like cost and accessibility is crucial for its widespread adoption.

[Report summarised using Copilot (Bing)]

Written by Yvonne Moore, Digital Educational Developments Lead

Posted in: learning technology, TEL, virtual reality

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