Glasgow report highlights transformational power of XR technology for education  

Published: 31 January 2024

UofG has today officially launched its white paper on the benefits and challenges that immersive technologies like virtual reality can bring to education.

A Birds eye view of a classroom of children in Virtual Reality

The University of Glasgow has today officially launched its white paper on the benefits and challenges that immersive technologies like virtual reality can bring to education.

The study, supported by Meta, has made a series of recommendations to Extended Reality* (XR) technology industry, government and education sector.

The paper says the XR “represents a significant watershed” in the progress that audiovisual technology are been developed, with devices now modelled “on the way we naturally interact with the real world”.

It adds: “Instead of watching a video recording of an erupting volcano, an XR user can find themselves right on the crater’s edge and peak inside, even stand on their tiptoes as they inch closer to get a better look. Instead of reading about the distinguishing features of various dinosaurs, a user can don an XR headset and walk up to a virtual dinosaur as it’s grazing on Mesozoic grass and get an immediate experience of its size, shape and presence in the world.

“This sense of presence and immersion can offer countless opportunities not just for entertainment and storytelling, but for a wide range of educational experiences too.”

A recent survey by XR Association (XRA) and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) found that over two-thirds (67%) of educators hope that immersive technologies will be used regularly in schools and 77% believe in the power of extended reality to ignite curiosity and engagement in class. It is hoped the White Paper and related Report will help inform policy makers and funders of where the research gaps exist, and what areas of policy might require consideration.

The University has a vast and hard-won understanding of the operational and logistical challenges of deploying XR teaching. Academics have drawn on their experience of developing the edify platform, which is used in Higher Education, in comprehensive secondary contexts, remote rural school deployments, and primary classrooms. The academics, using pioneering facilities at the Advanced Research Centre (ARC), have been blending teaching, learning and research with XR technologies – many of which came into their own during the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Photo of Dr Neil McDonnell in Cloister for the announcement of funding for Virtual Reality Classrooms and Teaching Resources to be created by University of Glasgow. 650

Neil McDonnell, Professor of Philosophy and XR Technology at the University of Glasgow based at its Advanced Research Centre (ARC), said: “I believe that XR technology will transform what we teach and how we teach in ways we cannot yet fully comprehend.

“That is both exciting and daunting and our work on this project aims to prepare educators, technologists, and policymakers for the opportunities and the challenges that such change will bring.”

The paper sets out a series of recommendations aimed at the XR technology industry, Government and Education sector.

For XR technology industry, the researchers advise the sector should build products that will allow for a growth of use including a set of standardised cost effective tools and platforms to allow educators to be trained and create content fit for purpose in the classroom.

The report also calls on Government to attend to the power of XR technology today before widespread adoption takes hold and to also play its part to support research to inform strategy and regulation especially for learners using XRed.

For the education sector, it encourages it to start now in bringing forward processes that will help prepare “teachers, curricula, and classrooms for that future”. While more generally, the paper says, “the Education Sector must take the lead to ensure XRed is built to enable and support those who know best: education practitioners”.

The research was supported by a gift from Meta’s Immersive Learning Fund, which has allowing researchers at Glasgow to remain independent whilst working on the project. The metaverse will help build a more curious, creative and connected world. Today, Meta for Education is helping make education more interactive and accessible for all. We’re creating new opportunities for people to learn throughout their lives, developing new options for businesses to train their staff, and giving teachers new ways to inspire the next generation of students.

Nick Clegg, President Global Affairs, Meta said: “This white paper adds to a growing evidence base that demonstrates just how powerful metaverse technologies can be in education. What’s really encouraging to see is the optimism educators have about how these technologies can inspire students and improve learning. We will take the recommendations on board as we continue to build these tools, and we hope policymakers and those in the education sector will learn from this work too.”

University of Glasgow student in Edify Virtual Reality Classroom

Extended Reality

*Extended reality (XR) is a universal term inclusive to immersive technologies virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality (MR).

XRed: Preparing for immersive education

“XRed: Preparing for immersive education” is a White Paper document by the Scoping Extended Educational Realities (SEER) research group in the University of Glasgow. The cross disciplinary team is made up of researchers in education, philosophy, XR technology and psychology, and this group has extensive experience in the deployment and use of XR technology in education.

SEER is led by Professor Neil McDonnell (School of Humanities | Sgoil nan Daonnachdan) and includes Dr Lavinia Hirsu (School of Education); Dr Gabriella Rodolico (School of Education); Dr Sarune Savickaite (School of Psychology & Neuroscience); Dr Imants Latkovskis (XR Lab Manager/IT Services) and Dr Lysette Chapronniere (School of Humanities | Sgoil nan Daonnachdan).

This White Paper condenses SEER’s work into key takeaways. The associated report document lays out our research, thinking, and argument, in detail and provides case studies, an illustrative example of how we see a future lesson which makes use of XR technology.

This work was partly funded by a donation from Meta. The writing, conclusions and recommendations are entirely those of the SEER team, who remains editorially independent. View the full paper here -




First published: 31 January 2024