Use of augmented reality (AR) to aid bioscience education and enrich student experience

Laura E. Reeves, Edward Bolton, Matthew Bulpitt, Alex Scott, Ian Tomey, Micah Gates, Robert Andrew Baldock

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In recent years, development of new technologies designed to enhance user experience have accelerated, often being used in modern media such as in films and games. Specifically, immersive experiences, such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), have redefined how digital media can be delivered, encouraging us to interact with and explore our environment. Reciprocally, as the power of these technologies has advanced, the associated costs to implement them have decreased, making them more cost-effective and feasible to deliver in a variety of settings. Despite the cost reduction, several issues remain with accessibility due to the knowledge base required to generate, optimise and deliver three-dimensional (3D)-digital content in both AR and VR. Here, we sought to integrate an AR-based experience into a level-4 biochemistry module in order to support the delivery of university lectures on protein structure and function. Traditionally, this topic would comprise two-dimensional still images of complex 3D structures. By combining a breadth of subject-specific and technological expertise from across the university, we developed an AR-enhanced learning experience hosted on the Zapworks AR platform. AR enabled full illustration of the complexity of these 3D structures, while promoting collaboration through a shared user experience. Assessing the impact of the AR experience via a formative test and survey revealed that despite only a modest increase in test performance, students overwhelmingly reported positively on the engaging nature and interactivity of AR. Critically, expanding our repertoire of content delivery formats will support the forward-thinking blended learning environments adopted across the higher education sector.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalResearch in Learning Technology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2021


  • augmented reality
  • structural biology
  • protein structure
  • biomedical science
  • biosciences
  • education
  • engagement


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