Portfolio for TRU EDDL

Blended Realities

As previously mentioned, I am entering the teaching field from a background in fine arts. My BFA diploma from 2008 states my field of study was ‘Inter-Media’, a short lived piece of  technology terminology that was a quick breath between multimedia and interdisciplinary arts. I find technological innovation enabling creative and practical problem solving skills to be of interest to my teaching approach. The technology I see making the most impact on the future of education is the combined efforts of Virtual (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) hardware, tethered to an open and universal knowledge software. Immersive technology such as these, coupled with a personalized, modular learning approach would ideally make for self-sufficient learning. Could virtual and augmented reality be the most effective educational technology if used in tandem with a universal design for learning and open learning environments?


VR & AR are not necessarily new technology but they’re more commonplace than most people think. Classic examples of this kind could be; gaming, make-up, sightseeing and tourism, athletic training or competition, and military applications. In the past few years, even visual art and live concerts have been exercising new ideas and possibilities through the use of virtual, augmented and blended realities. VR & AR also have a history as a tool for simulated learning; mock-up medical procedures, architecture and design, emergency search and rescue scenarios, physical and emotional rehabilitation, environmental or experiential investigation, STEM education, as well as scientific and mathematical equations. In the latter examples, the three dimensional quality of the technology is used to articulate what is difficult or impossible to describe in text or on paper. According to Leung, et al. (2018)  “VR provides a controlled environment in which learners can navigate, manipulate, and observe the effects of virtual objects found within. As such it is very well suited for providing exploratory learning environments for learning through experimentation.” (p.3)


I see VR & AR working very well in a blended learning environment, where they could accompany other tools for teaching. As the world shifts to online learning as a most common way to educate, the role of the teacher changes along with it. The future of face-to-face real time teaching and learning is changing everyday. I believe the Universal Design Learning (UDL) and Open Education Resources (OER) would be the best approach to teaching and learning VR & AR. UDL & OER could provide the student with a modular, flexible and progressive workflow that is specific to the individual’s optimal learning habits. Cooperative learning structures, feedback sessions and regular assessments would provide a solid foundation for further educational assistance. If self-sufficiency is the goal with education, and creating teachers out of learners then empowering the student with knowledge and confidence is the first step. Once you’ve taught a new tool to someone, the best outcome is that they can practice this new skill themselves as well as pass it on to others, and on repeat.  


One issue with making VR & AR a universal educational technology is the cost to manufacture and maintain such devices. As Google gains more leverage over the internet and its educational programs and technology, there is an opportunity to make a technology like their Google glasses a free and accessible form of hardware that could function with open software and universal resources, in hopes of bridging the digital divide. As Traxler notes (2007) “With increased popular access to information and knowledge anywhere, anytime, the role of education, perhaps especially formal education, is challenged and the relationships between education, society, and technology are now more dynamic than ever.” (p.2).  Another ongoing concern with VR & AR is the possible security threat inherent in the technology, with its recording and monitoring capabilities as well as facial recognition and social media connectivity. Towards the end of 2019, augmented reality game Pokemon GO was in the news when 2 players in search of Pikachu ended up on a Canadian Military base in North Bay, this bizarre incident also caught the attention of the New York Times. Regardless of these troubles, I still believe VR and AR could coexist in harmony through open educational resources in a universal design for learning.


References : 


Hegarty, B. (2015, July–August). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology, 3-13. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/ca/Ed_Tech_Hegarty_2015_article_attributes_of_open_pedagogy

Kennette, L. N., & Wilson, N. A. (2019). Universal Design for Learning (UDL): Student and Faculty Perceptions. Journal of Effective Teaching in Higher Education2(1), 1–26.

King-Sears, M. (2009). Universal design for learning: Technology and pedagogy. Learning Disability Quarterly, 32(4), 199–201. https://doi.org/10.2307/27740372

Leung, T., Zulkernine, F., & Isah, H. (2018). The use of virtual reality in enhancing interdisciplinary research and education. arXiv, 1–6. https://arxiv.org/abs/1809.08585

Manovich, L. (2006). The poetics of augmented space.  http://www.alice.id.tue.nl/references/manovich-2006.pdf

Singleton, Korey Jerome, et al. “Integrating UDL Strategies into the Online Course Development Process: Instructional Designers Perspectives.” Online Learning, vol. 23, no. 1, Jan. 2019, http://doi:10.24059/olj.v23i1.1407

Traxler, J. (2007). Defining, discussing and evaluating mobile learning: The moving finger writes and having writ …. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 8(2). http://dx.doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v8i2.346

Vaughan, N. D., Cleveland Innes, M., & Garrison, D. R. (2013). Chapters 1 & 2. In, Teaching in blended learning environments: Creating and sustaining communities of inquiry. Athabasca University Press. https://ebookcentral-proquest-com.ezproxy.tru.ca/lib/trulibrary-ebooks/detail.action?docID=4837975



  1. Keith Webster

    Hi Jesse,

    I think there are two things that have to be in place for AR and VR to become the most impactful development in education. First these tools have to demonstrate a capacit to make a difference in learning across many disciplines, and second AR/VR content has to be creatable at the instructor level. I think both of these propositions can be proven but the current gap is definitely a drag on the adoption of these tools.

    The intersection of UDL and OER with augmented reality and virtual reality is fairly narrow. There is lots of opportunity for OER resources in AR/VR but much of the best material is being created by commercial enterprises. I’m currently reviewing a proposal to use a commercial VR content service for a program. The cost is fairly reasonable but I’m trying to determine that the content can acutally have an impact on learning.

    UDL can certainly benefit from AR and VR but I think you have to include it as something students can create as their means of expression. I would suggest looking for articles that combine these topics. If you look further into UDL principles I think you could make a case for which AR/VR technologies can support UDL.

    I think to turn this into a good project/paper topic you need to pick one question that you hope to answer and avoid all other assertions – just stick to one proposition you are trying to prove or question to answer. YOu could do something like ‘how can AR and VR support universal design for learning?’ You would need to start by searching the literature to see if there was enough research to lay a foundation, and perhaps whether it makes sense to further narrow the focus (ie. secondary level physics). Then you would need to define terms and set some scope boundaries for the paper.

    Let me know if you have any questions,


    • jmatthews

      Excellent insight and advice. I need to focus my research question, then clarify my ideas. There is so much more literature about this then I’d expected, lots of attention recently of course but also radical perspectives from over a decade ago. It has made me realize that virtual reality and cyberspace was very much a part of pop culture in the 1990’s when I was a teenager, it’s oddly nostalgic even though I haven’t really used the technology. I’m interested in the ways that learners react to different kinds of technological tools, and how to keep them motivated and engaged on a meaningful level.
      Thank you for the comment and feedback!

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