Technology drives many of the changes we experience in the world today, including the changes in the educational landscape. The impact of technology on education makes for a fascinating case study. The eLearning industry has grown by over 900% since 2000 and shows no signs of slowing down, especially due to the boost in online learning trends since COVID.
Both educational institutions, as well as corporations, are constantly on the lookout for emerging technologies that can make learning and development easier, more flexible, and more hands-on.
Wearable technology is the latest in a long line of eLearning innovations. The number of wearable devices is expected to reach 1 Billion in 2022 and many of these devices can be used as online learning aids.
As scientists and engineers come up with better and more reliable device technology, the potential use of these technologies as learning tools can expand to all sorts of industries. Today, wearable technology in eLearning is leveraged in industries like medicine, travel, and more.
Before institutions decide to invest in the exciting but pricey venture of wearable technology, it is important to consider the benefits, limitations, and possible uses of these devices. Let’s take a look at the ways in which wearable technology can be used in eLearning, and whether it makes sense to adopt them for your organization.
Wearable Technology Devices
Virtual Reality Headsets
VR headsets are perhaps the most innovative wearable technology in eLearning. Users simply put these headsets on and immediately get transported into a three-dimensional virtual space, which, given modern technology, is extremely realistic and detailed. While VR headsets are prevalent in gaming, their educational uses cannot be discounted either.
VR is particularly useful to give learners a hands-on training experience without physically putting them in the environment. The most practical application of this technology is in emergency medical services, where trainees can learn how to perform their roles without actively putting themselves or others in harm’s way. Medical interns can also practice complicated medical procedures in a virtual environment until they gain enough expertise to operate on actual patients.
Apart from emergency services, students can use virtual reality to learn about environments that are hard to access, which can be helpful in fields like marine biology and astronomy. Stanford Medicine creates 3D models through a combination of CT Scans, MRIs, and other medical imaging that are accessed through a VR headset.
Additionally, VR headsets can also transport students back in time, where they can learn about historical events in a unique and immersive way. Information learned this way helps spark curiosity among students and is also likely to be retained.
While the smart glasses technology has not been completely commercialized yet, many vendors have come close to making this a reality. Google glass is one of the most successful attempts at creating smart glasses. Since then, the promise of this technology has led many vendors to create more cost-effective alternatives that can be used by the everyday learner.
Unlike VR headsets that project a completely different 3D environment, smart glasses project information in the environment where the user is present. This type of superimposed data and imagery over the real world is known as augmented reality, or AR. This can be leveraged to provide users with in-situ learning opportunities, where additional information and context can be provided to students in real-time. Learners can use smart glasses to observe situations from the instructor’s point of view and vice versa.
Smart glasses also have a great potential use for language translation. Language students can read immediate translations as they communicate with others, and can identify patterns, vocabulary, and context in a way that cannot be replicated by traditional means of learning.
Smart watches have become one of the most popular wearable technologies in the world today. Acting as a miniature smartphone, the convenience of viewing all your messages, information, and reminders right from your wrist makes smart watches a success. Their use in eLearning, while limited, is centered around their convenience and portability.
By leveraging text-to-speech input and output, these devices can be used to provide translation services in real-time, and much like smart glasses, this functionality can be leveraged in language studies. A shining example of this is the DuoLingo Android Wear app, which leverages quick, flashcard-like content for easy language consumption.
Admittedly, eLearning via Smart Watches is a growing space but as eLearning trends like microlearning continue to grow, it’s only a matter of time for there to be a seamless eLearning delivery model made for smart watches. Perhaps a more practical application of eLearning with smart watches would be to deliver reminders to the user’s watch to complete their training or that new training material is available.
Fitness trackers are mostly used to keep track of bodily functions, like breathing rate, pulse, and temperature. Modern smart watches offer most of these functions as well, but fitness trackers are also individually very popular as they are cost-effective, durable, and in many cases, waterproof.
Fitness trackers can be used to learn more about the human body, and how it responds to different kinds of exercise and diet. By connecting the tracker to a computer, this data can be exported and used in various studies about the human body. This example can be applied to eLearning data: an app that captures data through the Fitness Tracker can be analyzed when connected to the computer and educational information could be provided back to the wearer. This kind of model would work well for eLearning delivered by a public health organization, for example.
Brain Sensing Headbands
An interesting application of wearable technology in eLearning comes in the form of brain-sensing headbands. Brain sensing headbands like Muse leverage EEG sensors to track brain activity. While this technology is quite advanced and not useful for everyday learning, it does offer an insight into the human brain and how it reacts to certain stimuli.
The headband can be used for focus training which can be very effective when addressing mental health concerns. This involves identifying when the brain is experiencing stress, fatigue, or anxiety, and using guided meditations to learn how to combat these issues.
Wearable Technology: Benefits and Limitations
Industries ranging from medicine to art or travel, all have much to gain from modern approaches to learning and development. Wearable technology in eLearning is an exciting venture full of promise and immeasurable benefits. That being said, it is also important to consider the limitations of this technology before implementing it into our lives.
Wearable technology can help bridge the gap between learning and application by transporting learners directly into the learning environment. The student response to various learning activities can be measured and recorded, which can serve as a guide to improving current educational methods in place. This technology can also be personalized by studying the learning patterns of each individual student and optimizing content delivery to suit their needs. Many differently-abled learners can also leverage modern technology to overcome the barriers they face with traditional learning methods.
However, the integration of technology with our personal lives has left many people questioning our dependency on technology and how that may impact our privacy. Users of wearable technology can expose themselves to potential data breaches that may leave their personal and sensitive data vulnerable to exploitation. Many users also find technologies like brain-sensing headbands to be overly invasive.
On top of that, the expense of integrating wearable technology at scale makes many organizations reluctant to invest in a technology that still has much room for improvement. While the proficiency of these devices is improving constantly, users still face malfunctions and bugs that can discourage potential buyers.
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Great promise also comes with great risk. And while the limitations of wearable technology are significant, it is reasonable to expect that devices in the future will address these issues. While the investment may seem pricey to some, its usefulness in industries like medicine far outweighs the costs.
From discovering remote geographical locations to an up-close virtual look into historical events, wearable technology in eLearning has a lot to offer. The ability to get a more hands-on learning experience is not just better for retention but can help learners apply their skills in practice with more confidence and accuracy. Ed-tech has proven to create better learning opportunities in the past, and will likely continue to do so in the future.
Whether you want to incorporate wearable technology for workplace training or higher education, getting the right tools and advice is crucial. Getting your online learning platforms to integrate with technology is no easy task, and Edly is here to help you with that. Our custom learning solutions can help you cater to your learners and incorporate the latest trends in eLearning. For more information about our products and services, feel free to contact us and request a free demo!