XR and the Transformation of Online Education

Part of being a part of the higher education market is tracking the latest developments and innovations that are transforming the landscape, both for students and the institutions themselves. One new, big player in the field of online education is extended reality, or XR, and it’s poised to open up new opportunities for schools to discover new enrollments and deliver their programs.

What is XR?

XR is an umbrella term that encompasses multiple types of interactive technology, including:

Virtual Reality (VR)

VR is a simulated experience that utilizes 3D headsets, motion controllers, and pose tracking to give you an immersive feel of the world you’re seeing in the display.

woman wearing virtual reality goggles

Augmented Reality (AR)

AR combines both real-world and computer-generated content, using both real and virtual worlds, real-time interactions, and 3D virtual and real objects.

Mixed Reality (MR)

MR, which includes AR, is used to describe any situation where you merge the real-world environment with a computer-generated virtual one.

As a field, extended reality is showing substantial growth in recent years, and that trend is expected to continue. The XR market is on track to grow by 23.5% in 2023 and is projected to rise to over $100 billion by 2026. This area of technology is continuing to become more accessible and available, as well as more affordable every year.

This strong growth runs hand-in-hand with big-time gains in the online education industry as well, with the global online education market projected to reach $602 million by 2030.

What are the transformative capabilities of using XR in higher ed?

So what does this parallel expansion of both online education and XR tech mean for higher education institutions? How can schools leverage this brave new world and turn it into new opportunities for connecting with potential students? Here are a few of the benefits we see this bringing to the higher ed field:

Opening up new markets in career education and training

For our clients who are focused on career education, hands-on training is often a key component to the programs they offer. After all, for someone who is studying to become an HVAC technician, a medical assistant, an MRI tech, the one thing that is going to best prepare them for their career is to practice the actual tasks they’ll be asked to perform on the job. But it can also sometimes limit the pool of prospective students to those who live in the local area and have access to reliable transportation. Integrating XR technologies can allow career education schools to widen their search and connect with students who may fit perfectly into their mission and culture, but who live across the state or even across the country.

Meeting the younger market where they are

Between Gen Z and younger millennials, today’s generation of young adults are more tech-savvy than ever before, and connecting with them can often be a matter of meeting them where they are not just physically or mentally but also technologically. According to Zippia.com, 25- and 34-year-olds account for 23% of VR/AR device users, and it makes sense. They’re looking for tech that is innovative, that truly captures their attention. Integrating XR devices into online education is a way to build a bridge to the younger market and demonstrate that you truly are on the cutting-edge of training.

Using the virtual world to ready them for the real world

Gaining practical experience is so important for so many students, most especially those who are looking into career training that will get them job-ready. And while a lot of vocational schools already offer this type of education through labs and other hands-on work, VR, AR and MR tech can expand and grow all that’s available to students in these programs. It can be an immersive way to let students practice technical skills, interpersonal communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and more, all before they step out into the job market. This could make them invaluable prospects for potential employers.

Raising learner retention which benefits everyone across the board

According to PwC’s Technology Institute, students learning with VR can train up to four times faster than in traditional classrooms and are 275% more confident in applying their skills in their day-to-day work. The immersion and interactive nature of XR learning increases our emotional connection to what we’re learning, bumps up our productivity, and overall improves our retention of the skills and information we’re learning. And increasing knowledge retention can be a boon to everyone: the students, the employers hiring them, the instructors, and the school as a whole.

Get More From Your Marketing With EdwardsSchoen

If you’re ready to connect with a digital higher education marketing agency who creates unique, individualized marketing plans that encompass the entire consumer landscape, now is the perfect time to start a conversation with EdwardsSchoen. Through leveraging extensive upfront analysis, we deliver the right message, in the right medium, at the right time. Learn more about us here or contact us here.


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About the Author Lindsay Shannon

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