HoloChem Exemplifies the Power of Immersive Learning
Experience is the Best Teacher
It’s a well-worn but still highly relevant idiom, especially in our era of information overload. Digital textbooks and e-Learning revolutionized the classroom as just-in-time sources of raw information and knowledge. The hard part is applying that knowledge to practical use with precision and confidence. It’s a common goal and yet still very challenging for our global community of instructors.
To gain those capabilities, our students need experiential learning that puts them into a given scenario or context, enabling them to use and test their knowledge in real-time and assess the results of inputs and outcomes as they occur. Powerful immersive technologies can simulate the most realistic contexts possible to do just that, and in the process make lessons “stick” and become life-long capabilities.
Humans experience the world through our primary senses, not limited to but certainly centered around vision and hearing. This implies that the best way to learn a concept is to see and hear the context in which it arises. Experiential learning is best when we immerse students into ultra-realistic environments and let their senses–their eyes and ears–guide their thinking, actions, and reactions.
Myriad Applications Across Industries
We now have immersive technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR), that can combine to make any scene “come alive” for students. Immersive technologies are being employed across a wide spectrum of industries to do the same thing for employees and customers, from real estate to gaming and entertainment. The goal is to immerse people in the situation and let them experience it to understand it.
Imagine a real estate client who can’t physically walk through a property she’s considering purchasing. Why not set up a holographic walkthrough enabling her to see it in an incredibly life-like experience? Or ask any gamer what’s more engaging on every sensory level, a 16-bit video game or one powered by VR. You already know the answer. These technologies are truly a game-changer.
For industries in which learning a complex process or procedure in real-time might actually present critical, sometimes life-threatening consequences, immersive experiences have huge potential and a unique value proposition. Why? Because we can sense the entire situation, especially with our eyes and ears, as though it were actually real and happening right in front of us, but more importantly because we can learn best through all that trial and error–and yes, even failure–without any of the catastrophic outcomes.
From Proving Grounds to Classroom
The U.S. Army’s recent $22 billion contract with Microsoft for immersive Hololens 2 solutions demonstrates this incredible value. The Army knows that extended reality (XR) solutions of all types (XR serving as the umbrella for all immersive capabilities) put soldiers and other personnel “in the moment” during training and live simulations, allowing them to experience their surroundings much better and guide their thought processes in the most effective way for each situation. Immersive technologies greatly enhance situational awareness (SA), which is absolutely vital in all military contexts.
What works for field training and live operations is now extending to the classrooms of the academies. Scott Maucione notes in an article in the Federal News Network, “The military has employed mixed reality technologies to better its training for the past few years, but now military schools are hoping to do the same thing when giving students a hands-on learning experience.” Maucione goes on to say that the “Air Force Academy is changing the way students work with different substances in introduction chemistry classes by using mixed and extended reality goggles.”
The recent contract from AFWERX, which includes $750,000 in funding to develop HoloChem, is significant. HoloChem applies mixed-reality technologies to learning advanced chemistry in highly realistic and interactive scenarios. The application immerses cadets into chemistry experiments so that they visually experience chemicals and their interactions. They experience chemistry lessons in a much more realistic and iterative way (without some of the associated risks), so they learn much more effectively and rapidly.
Our armed forces require mission execution with little to no room for failure. You can’t learn that level of precise execution by reading or talking about a subject like advanced chemistry—you just have to be there fully in the lab and in the context! Teachers, professors, and administrators around the country and globe can now look to the potential that immersive solutions like HoloChem have in helping their students experience critical lessons, not just understand them. Because education is just as mission critical in the long run.