Augmented Learning – Education in the Digital Age

Digitization by Honoris Staff Writer

The digital revolution has impacted almost every feature of our lives. More than 5 billion people are estimated to have a mobile device, while at least 4.6 billion people have access to the internet.

This connectivity has changed how we engage with others, access information, and understand the world around us.

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated these changes, including in education, with face-to-face teaching switching the move to digital learning into high gear. The education sector is now profoundly different from what we knew before. The integration of digital technologies into teaching is here to stay.

Education technology is now a global phenomenon and for good reason – 63 percent of educators think that educational technology accelerates learning.

Edutech is used across disciplines, from advanced interactive tools for learning languages to running virtual experiments in laboratories.

Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are proving particularly useful in a range of educational settings. Global expenditure on these learning tools was at US$1.8billion in 2018 and is expected to reach U$12.6 billion in 2025.

One of the most exciting applications of cutting-edge educational technology is in the field of medicine.

Healthcare studies

From brain surgery to reconnecting blood vessels, medical procedures are being transformed by the use of AR technology.

At Imperial College London at St. Mary’s Hospital, researchers have used Microsoft Hololens headsets while operating on patients undergoing reconstructive lower limb surgery. The headsets, which Microsoft describes as offering “Mixed Reality”, overlay scan images on the patient during the operation which show bones, blood vessels, and the precise targets of the surgery. The technology potentially reduces the time a patient spends under anaesthetic and lowers the margin of human error.

The technology is also being used in purely educational environments. Using AR or VR tools, healthcare students can learn theory and practice, from exploring visualisations of difficult structures in anatomy to being guided through simulations of delicate surgical operations.

At the Honoris Medical Simulation Centre in Tunis, Tunisia, for example, all medical and nursing students have the opportunity to pursue their education using medical simulation. Students don VR headsets to run through scenarios that emulate complex real-life situations in real-time, such as hazardous spills or trauma events.

The simulations provide them with a realistic experience of real-life medical care, preparing them not only with useable knowledge and practical skills, but emotional and psychological training for high-pressure, life-or-death future working environments.

Integrating AR or VR into existing programmes helps students understand theoretical concepts more easily, keeps them engaged in learning, and prepares them for careers through simulated experiences that allow them to fine-tune their skills and increase their confidence in a safe space before applying this learning to real life.


The engineering, mathematics and architecture fields are also undergoing an educational evolution using AR and VR. The technology is used to simulate experiences in labs, go on virtual field trips and emulate real-life building projects, allowing students to visualise projects before building them, reducing mistakes.

Tools such as Construct3D employ screen-based AR with Web3D to support engineering education. The MERGE Cube is another tool ideal for educating students in the sciences. The cube is a patterned foam square which is held in the hands and onto which hologram images are overlaid when looking through a headset. Educators can design lessons for students to explore, while students can themselves create their own virtual structures and watch them come to life.

Researchers have reported on the positive impact of AR on learners, including increased content understanding; learning spatial structure and function; learning language associations; long-term memory retention; improved physical task performance; improved collaboration; and increased student motivation.

Gamification is another way that educators are motivating learning. Gamification involves applying game elements – the ‘DNA’ of games – to non-game activities using points, badges and achievements to create engagement and interest.

Games are also being used in education in a bigger way: in video simulations. They have found particular application in IT education, for example, bringing to life concepts such as the cloud and virtualisation, as well as in cyber security. With the increase in targeted attacks, serious games have proven to be effective in training and educating students on cyber attacks or phishing scams.

Business studies

Artificial intelligence (AI) is another cutting-edge technology that is playing an important role in 21st-century learning approaches.

Adaptive learning uses proven data analytics and technologies that understand the learning patterns of individuals through algorithms from billions of learning experiences, automatically adjusting to the needs of each learner. This AI thus functions as a one-to-one personal tutor, adapting to the needs of individual students.

Honoris United Universities – the first and largest pan-African network of private higher education institutions – is now using adaptive learning in business studies in South Africa through its new partnership with Area9 Lyceum, a world-renowned leader in personalised and adaptive learning platforms.

Breaking with traditional models of education, adaptive learning cuts training time to focus on creating higher proficiency in learners, improving outcomes and uncovering unconscious incompetence. The Area9 Adaptive Learning Platform – Rhapsode – guides learners step-by-step using continuous adaptive learning technology while eliminating boredom and frustration. The platform can cut the time to proficiency by as much as 50 percent, with the potential for 100 percent competency for all students.

Online skills for the offline world

With the move to online learning, the education sector has gone through a seismic shift that will have a lasting impact on how students are taught.
Students trained to master advanced technologies and feel entirely at ease in the online world will be more prepared to enter the digitally connected professional world. Their Internet usage skills and ability to engage others through digital channels will help them perform in their chosen field. Educating students on digital citizenship is crucial for their future.