The Campus of the Future: 3D Technologies in Academe project identified current innovative uses of 3D technologies, investigated which educational activities lend themselves to the use of 3D technologies, and identified the most effective 3D technologies for various learning goals. This project is not the first effort to integrate VR, AR, or 3D printing and scanning technologies into educational experiences, but it is the broadest such project that we are aware of, spanning a larger and more diverse sample of institutions and learning environments, and reaching a larger number of users. Much of the prior work on the integration of 3D technologies into education focuses on individual courses with specific learning objectives. This project addressed not specific learning objectives but more broadly the use of 3D technologies to achieve particular learning goals. The technologies investigated here—and the wider range of XR technologies—hold a great deal of promise for teaching and learning. This project is, we believe, a significant first step toward establishing a baseline of empirical evidence about 3D technologies for education. We now call for a broader research agenda to expand on this work and to investigate which educational activities lend themselves to the use of XR technologies broadly and identify the most effective XR technologies for specific learning goals.
The author William Gibson is credited with having said, "The future is already here, it's just not evenly distributed yet." Well-resourced academic units are able to purchase cutting-edge tools and technologies and make them available for students and faculty, as well as provide the staffing to implement them. It is the students and faculty in less well-resourced academic units that need institutional support. These users may be just as enthusiastic about using new technology and have just as many ideas, but lack the resources to realize them. These users need a campus unit to be the early adopter, to purchase this technology before they can purchase it commercially for themselves. Often it is shared campus facilities (libraries, makerspaces) that provide access to technologies (3D or otherwise) that are on the edge of or beyond current consumer availability. But while providing access to this technology to the campus community is important, providing support for the technology is equally important. Technical support to help users scale the learning curve of a new technology is critical, but that is just the first step; instructional design support to help users figure out how to integrate new technology into their teaching, research, or coursework is equally critical. All new technology is a learning experience, and learning experiences are of course the point of higher education. The future is not evenly distributed yet. Part of the purpose of higher education is to help it become so.