Institutions of higher education are hotbeds of innovation. Several institutions no doubt leap to the reader’s mind as being on the cutting edge of technology innovation. But innovation is not confined to technology development: Innovations in pedagogy are equally if not more important to institutions of higher education.
Extended reality (XR) technologies, which encompass virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), are already having a dramatic impact on pedagogy in higher education. XR is a general term that covers a wide range of technologies along a continuum, with the real world at one end and fully immersive simulations at the other. Within the past few years, a variety of technologies along this continuum have become increasingly widespread, as their cost has decreased and their ease of use increased. While high-end VR and AR headsets are still relatively expensive, inexpensive smartphone-based versions of both have made these technologies readily accessible. Of course, as with any computer hardware, what is today a high-end headset will be inexpensive tomorrow. This pressure from both above and below has driven the widespread adoption of many technologies, from the personal computer to the smartphone. And it is when technologies become widespread that they really begin to have a broad impact and their full potential can be realized.
To explore the potential of XR technologies in higher education, EDUCAUSE and HP collaborated on the Campus of the Future: 3D Technologies in Academe project. This project focused on a subset of XR technologies concerned with 3D simulations, modeling, and production: VR, AR, 3D scanning, and 3D printing. This project sought to identify current innovative uses of these 3D technologies in higher education, discover how these uses are currently impacting teaching and learning, and determine what this information can tell us about possible future uses for these technologies.