Smart devices like the Apple Watch or Fitbit have proved very popular in the sporting arena, and have seen some applications in the workplace for Health and Safety compliance and so-called “wellness”policies. But wearable technology has potential beyond its use for health and fitness.
In this article, we’ll be looking at various ways in which smart wearable devices may be deployed for educational purposes – both in a corporate setting, and for students at all levels.
1st Person Simulations
Many eLearning courses are structured as a collection of scenarios, meant to simulate the actual working conditions of the trainee in a laboratory, workshop, or office setting. At a simple level, this usually means watching as the story is played out on a computer or smartphone screen, and clicking on various elements to interact with the environment.
Using virtual reality (VR) techniques and wearables like immersive spectacles and touch-sensitive gloves, this experience may be taken to a higher level. Training exercises may be designed to exactly simulate real working conditions, with learners interacting with 3D representations of the people and objects they would expect to encounter on a day to day basis.
Including an interactive gaming element, with scoring and reward systems linked to performance in the scenario can help create the desired associations in a learner’s mind with the objectives of their parent company or organisation.
Interactive Process and Product Demos
VR technology, immersive wearable devices and interactive notifications (pop-up notes and dialog boxes, etc.) may be used in combination to create demonstrations of products and processes that respond to the learner, when for example he or she moves a three-dimensional representation of an object in a certain way, or performs a certain action.
Products and processes rendered as 3D models could be viewed from any angle, and from a single location such as a Help desk or point of sale. So this method may be used in a customer service or marketing context, as well.
Real-Time Assistance and Technical Support
Smart wearable devices are typically fitted with sensors that can monitor the condition or performance of the wearer. They may also have a live connection to the Internet or a corporate intranet. This enables supervisors and senior staff to observe and assess the performance of a trainee in real time – and to offer advice or support specific to the task they’re working on, as they need it.
Learners may also gain on the spot access to guide books, instruction manuals, and other resources by swiping or tapping on their wearable devices, which would be linked to the relevant materials.
Many organisations operate on a multi-national basis, with branch offices, sites, and members / employees scattered across the globe. With connected wearable devices, it’s possible for training programmes to be made available to learners in specific locations, with content in the appropriate languages, structured in accordance with local laws and customary practices.
GPS location technology and time-tracking may also be used to determine a learner’s whereabouts at a given time, and to deliver support and educational content on this basis. This technology may also be used to provide incentives and rewards – e.g. in a gamified learning scenario, where trainees are awarded points for being in a certain place at a certain time.
Non-verbal interactions like vibrations or pulses from a smart device may serve as alerts or hints, if a learner appears to be following an undesirable path, or makes a clear mistake. But the sensor-based monitoring aspect of wearable devices need not only be a means of “keeping track” of trainees during an exercise.
Instant messaging and video chat tools may be incorporated into the training, to allow learners instant access to course facilitators and supervisors. This could be for advice and support during ongoing exercises, but it may also be a valuable source of user feedback, allowing learners the opportunity to comment on aspects of the course, as it proceeds.
information gathered in this way could be extremely valuable, in throwing up issues such as system glitches and perceived problems with the course content. This in turn could lead to improvements in the design and running of future training programmes.
Collaboration and Discussion
The emerging field of telepresence is a derivative of augmented reality. The technology uses audio apparatus, High-Definition cameras, and the creation of a virtual “common room”, to give learners a forum to meet with their peers who are also taking a course. Here, they can engage in discussions with other users anywhere in the world, and collaborate on joint projects.
Developments in virtual reality eye-wear may in future contribute to this type of forum having an added element of 3D immersion of the viewer in the common room space.
Consider the Technology
We’re still very much in the early days of adoption for wearable devices. And much of the technology at present is limited in functionality and beyond the budget of most potential users. Smart watch and smart spectacle screens are tiny, and the range of physical gestures and controls are very specific.
These limitations need to be kept in mind, when designing educational content for the wearable sector – and for the moment, less is more. Rather than a bunch of words on a screen, a simple vibration with a caption should suffice. Headsets, ear-pieces, and eye-wear should be used in conjunction, to give the learner audible feedback, in response to what they’re seeing. And so on.
Wearable technology is an emerging field, but one with enormous potential for its educational applications. And eLearning content needs to be designed with its specific characteristics in mind.