Growing Student Engagement Through VR and AR Powered by 5G

Digital Transformation is having an impact on every industry and field. For higher education institutions, Digital Transformation offers the greatest opportunities and potential for change. 

Technology has the power to elevate and transform education across the entire ecosystem. From learning to recruitment and retainment to research, connectivity is the driving force that empowers the digital era of education.

During a keynote address part of Fierce Education’s The Connected Campus online event, Dr. Joshua Coco, Client Solutions Executive focused on Education at AT&T, discussed how student demographics, the institutions, and students benefit from the power of seamless connectivity, 5G network, and the technologies powered by it. AT&T was one of the sponsors of the event.   

Dr. Coco has previously worked with the University of Miami focusing on disaster recovery and retention of students, especially during times of hurricanes. “The last couple of years have been a driving force for innovation,”Dr. Coco said, “not only redefining what connectivity is but also accelerating digitization of our society.”

Why connectivity matters in education Connectivity in education can be used in many ways. From recording the classes so students can watch them as many times as they need to implementing virtual labs with augmented and virtual reality. Unfortunately, not all the institutions have been able to change at the pace required post-pandemic. However, once college and universities understand the technology that is available they can reinvent the campus in an era of anytime, anywhere, and everywhere education.

Providing connectivity on campus is not enough, though. Institutions need to understand the challenges students face in order to bridge that gap between online and in-person teaching, Dr. Coco explained. “Providing equitable access extends far beyond network connectivity. It goes as far as understanding the challenges your students are facing. We need to break that gap between online and in-person teaching. We’re enabling a new learning environment with these technologies,” he said. 

Paving the road to 5G on an edge-less campus 

According to Dr. Coco, when looking at education from the point of view of any time and anywhere learning, the opportunities for colleges and universities to reach and retain students expands greatly. He brakes this into three main areas: 

  • The campus:
    • This is really a community. Connectivity is critical for a seamless learning and teaching experience. The connection around campus needs to work in any single corner and the connection does not end at the edge of the campus. AT&T is working to deliver an edge-less campus experience
  • The classroom:
    • This is anywhere the student is learning or the professor is teaching
  • The labs:
    •  Next-gen technologies such as 5G labs enable advanced research in test bed areas such as robotics, agriculture, transportation, and many more. 5G technologies allow for labs enabled with virtual reality and augmented reality experiences in both the physical  and virtual classroom for subjects such as biology, engineering, and arts 

“We are even working with institutions at implementing 5G into the curriculum in courses especifically,” Dr. Coco said. “Think of the student who lives over in the Midwest who has decided to study Marine Biology, for example, but has a job and needs to support his extended family. Should they be given the same opportunity to attend any university in the country? That student is maybe the next Jacques Cousteau, but has never been given the opportunity.”

Powered by 5G, technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality could be used by faculty to support internship students all over the world. “[Imagine] a faculty member and a student discussing what the student is doing at that internship or at that job, and for them to work together on projects on opposite sides of the globe,” said Dr. Coco. 

Growing engagement through VR and AR powered by 5G

Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technologies amplify the possibilities for faculty and researchers to collaborate on global projects transforming and advancing research collaboration at great scale. Industries and universities can also use VR and AR technologies to collaborate in new ways. Using these platforms and applications require Internet access and seamless connectivity. Here is where 5G technology plays a paramount role, which cannot be ignored. 

5G allows biology students to do dissections using virtual reality. A robotics group can focus on precision agriculture using virtual reality as well. The possibilities are endless. These tools not only contribute to student engagement but also play a role in student retention. “They help those students who may be at risk by giving them an opportunity to feel like they belong to a group and they may start developing their own research that maybe they’re interested in,” said Dr. Coco. 

“Whether we are talking about using drones and robotics for research or public safety with disaster management, maybe even students learning to perform surgical procedures, or advancing student success with access and equity in education, we are innovating to find better, faster, and more efficient ways to connect, working on the campus together, as a team,” said Dr. Coco. “The change in demographics in online education is all about access and a seamless education experience.”

This and other presentations part of The Connected Campus are available on-demand here. For more articles from The Connected Campus event, see: 

Addressing the Changing Landscape of Higher Education

The Connected Campus: More Access Means More Security Risk

Colleges and Universities Push the Frontier of Connectivity

Benefits and Limitations of Private Wireless Networks on Campus