Enormous Potential

Positive Hands-on Experience Boosts the Use of AR

Jens HofmannDresden (GER), December 2018 - Jens Hofmann is a trainer and project manager at SBG Dresden, one of eastern Germany’s largest corporate training providers for the chemistry and pharmaceutical industries. Jens is responsible for the design and testing of new teaching and learning methods in basic and advanced vocational training. He will talk about his experience with augmented reality at the LEARNTEC Congress on 30 January 2019 at 16:15 in the session "Ready for ARBT? - Teaching and Learning Scenarios for Augmented Reality Based Training in the Field of Vocational Education".

Which teaching and learning schemes are already in use? 

Jens Hofmann: The focus is on chemistry or actually the chemists. In this field, there has been a new elective qualification called Digitalization and Networked Production since 01 August 2018.


How has this changed the teaching program, and how can instructors prepare for it?

Jens Hofmann: I’m not sure "changed" is the right word. I’d rather say that the training has become a little more diverse, although the basic structure is still the same. We advocate an integrative approach in our practical training in the chemical lab. This means that in addition to the existing learning stations - usually related to equipment for the analysis of different chemical compounds - a new one has been added.

Instructors need a positive, hands-on experience, e.g. in a user workshop. We are in the process of qualifying selected trainers with a tailor-made program. Its focus is on the planning of the course, creating the content, and assessing augmented reality (AR) applications in regard to retention.

We leave it up to the trainers to decide whether and how to use AR. It’s absolutely clear to us that developing complex simulations cannot be the trainers’ task. Simple AR teaching and learning scenarios are useful at the beginning. 


For which occupational groups do you consider the use of AR-based training particularly useful or desirable?

Jens Hofmann: I think for all of them. Whether to employ an AR-based or AR-enriched training approach depends a lot on the specific setting or objectives. It's a bit like a tailor-made suit: If the measurements are taken incorrectly, the suit won't fit properly or not at all.


Who pays for the AR productions for the vocational training?

Jens Hofmann: We are very grateful to the National Agency Education at the German Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (NA BIBB) for funding our AR4VET project as part of a European partnership (The Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership).

Will AR be ubiquitous in this environment in the foreseeable future?

Jens Hofmann: It’s impossible to say because it always depends on the users’ specific needs. AR has to offer didactic added value in vocational education and training; otherwise its use has to be scrutinized carefully. Simple solutions are usually the best. The important this is that the users are involved. This means that bottom-up planning and implementation are preferable to top down. 

For practical vocational training, we see the use of augmented reality glasses as having more potential than smartphone based applications, as both hands have to be free. In production, etc., nothing would seem to stand in the way of its use, in combination with appropriate protective equipment. 

The glasses are still relatively expensive, but they’ll certainly become cheaper and more widely used. Future models will certainly also be lighter, more powerful, and have a longer battery life - of eight hours or even more.

Another factor is the handling of users' personal training data. This requires coordination with the works council or the relevant members of management.

To summarize, AR is still more of a niche application, but it has the potential for wider deployment. Microsoft’s, Apple’s, and other companies’ investment and development activities indicate this pretty clearly.  AR certainly has the potential to be "the next big thing" that delivers what it promises. To do this, though, an adequate range and depth of appropriate use cases and sector specific or organization specific experience have to be available. I’d say, realistically, we’re looking at five to ten years.