AR/VR’s Place in Higher Education: 7 Takeaways

Recently I had a chance to talk with Lenovo’s ThinkPad University Brand Ambassador Casey Sutton about AR/VR in Higher Education for the TrackPoint Talks podcast. We explored a number of topics in our discussion but I wanted to highlight seven key points that illustrate how immersive technologies are transforming teaching and learning. 

  1. AR/VR is all about the body in space.  Virtual Reality was a term coined by Jaron Lanier to describe a virtual space that was reactive to your body, so that when you turn your head to the left, the screen shifts to the right to give you the feeling of immersion. The inclusion of both virtualspace--as well as the way yourbody interacts with it--are key concepts for AR/VR and are different from interacting with computers through a keyboard and mouse or other modalities. 
  2. Different flavors of AR/VR apply in a variety of Higher Education settings.  In addition toVR(which is primarily an experience of a virtual world) or AR (which layers virtual content onto the real world), spatial technologies can be tethered to a computer or function as a standalone device. Additionally, both AR and VR headsets track your body in different ways. 
  • 3 degrees of freedom (3DoF) headsets capture the rotation of your head, which is great for stationary swivel chair experiences. 
  • 6 degrees of freedom (6DoF) headsets also capture your body’s position in space so that, when you take a few steps in the virtual world, you also take those steps in the virtual world. 

Each of these technologies can have an impact on teaching, learning, and research. The technology you want will be dependent on the learning outcomes you’re trying to achieve. 

  1. AR/VR technologies empower diverse disciplines.  When giving talks about AR/VR, I sometimes ask people to name any field of study or any profession. Then I invite the audience to join me in naming all of the ways that immersive technologies could enhance teaching and learning in that field. Great examples of teaching with AR/VR technologies can be found in the humanities, social sciences, arts, physical sciences, health professions or any other discipline on campus. Research studies into use of AR/VR for learning show higher levels of student engagement, better information retention and fewer distractions for students. Immersive technologies also shine in cases where learning something would be dangerous or impossible to experience in the real world, such as performing surgery or exploring molecular structures.


  1. Immersive technologies can be used in surprising ways.  VR is great forsoft skillsas well as spatial simulations, with use cases including Education and Social Work, where students can practice difficult conversations in a low-risk space. They can also assist institutions with recruitment by showcasing innovation and enhancing campus tours. 
  2. AR/VR are core technologies in the next wave of computing.  3D technologies are converging with other emerging tech in surprising ways to createthe Spatial Web. This links the mapping ability of robots, drones and self-driving cars to hardware like AR/VR headsets and IOT devices, all working in conjunction with enabling technologies like artificial intelligence and blockchain. The combination of these elements can lead to much more than the sum of its parts. The Spatial Web will completely redefine computing by seamlessly unifying the physical and virtual worlds. Institutions that are looking to equip students for the future of computing will want to actively engage with AR and VR to take advantage of this convergence.
  3. VR works well for remote learning as well as in-person classes.  While some classes will still have simultaneous VR experiences for students in the same room, other classes will be partially or entirely online. Lenovo’sVR Classroom 2solution was specifically designed to support teaching in all of these modalities, ensuring curricular continuity for students and professors by enabling simultaneous VR class sessions anywhere. It is powered by ThinkReality, a cloud portal that allows users to easily add or update apps across campus or around the world, and LanSchool Air, which enables professors to simultaneously launch VR apps for the whole class at once. Together they create a powerful, flexible solution for teaching with VR that keeps your class in sync. 
  4. You can get involved.  One way your institution can learn more about AR and VR in Higher Education and learn best practices for teaching, learning, and research using immersive tech is to join groups dedicated to moving the field forward. Two groups to consider are theImmersive Learning Research Network(iLRN) and Educators in VR. Maybe I’ll meet you someday at one of their events. 

For more information about Lenovo’s VR offerings, visit the Lenovo Store or check out our VR Classroom 2. 

Brian Moynihan is Lenovo’s Global Education Solutions Manager. You can follow him on Twitter here or connect with him on LinkedIn here. 

Before coming to Lenovo, I worked with Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) in Higher Education, founding AR/VR groups at UNC-Chapel Hill for faculty to explore innovative pedagogy and students to create hands-on projects, as well as a lecture series for anyone to learn more about immersive education and connect as a community. Now I get to bring innovative solutions to schools in K12 and Higher Education through VR Classroom 2.