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Technology in education can influence students to learn actively and can motivate them, leading to an effective process of learning. Previous research has identified the problem that technology will create a passive learning process if the technology used does not promote critical thinking, meaning-making or metacognition. Since its introduction, augmented reality (AR) has been shown to have good potential in making the learning process more active, effective and meaningful. This is because its advanced technology enables users to interact with virtual and real-time applications and brings the natural experiences to the user. In addition, the merging of AR with education has recently attracted research attention because of its ability to allow students to be immersed in realistic experiences. Therefore, this concept paper reviews the research that has been conducted on AR. The review describes the application of AR in a number of fields of learning including Medicine, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Biology, Astronomy and History. This paper also discusses the advantages of AR compared to traditional technology (such as e-learning and courseware) and traditional teaching methods (chalk and talk and traditional books). The review of the results of the research shows that, overall, AR technologies have a positive potential and advantages that can be adapted in education. The review also indicates the limitations of AR which could be addressed in future research.
International Education Studies; Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
ISSN 1913-9020 E-ISSN 1913-9039
Published by Canadian Center of Science and Education
A Review of Research on Augmented Reality in Education:
Advantages and Applications
Nor Farhah Saidin1, Noor Dayana Abd Halim1 & Noraffandy Yahaya1
1 Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Malaysia
Correspondence: Nor Farhah Saidin, Department of Educational Sciences, Mathematics and Creative
Multimedia, Faculty of Education, Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, 81310 Skudai, Johor, Malaysia. Tel:
60-17-404 8492. E-mail:
Received: November 1, 2014 Accepted: March 12, 2015 Online Published: June 25, 2015
doi:10.5539/ies.v8n13p1 URL:
Technology in education can influence students to learn actively and can motivate them, leading to an effective
process of learning. Previous research has identified the problem that technology will create a passive learning
process if the technology used does not promote critical thinking, meaning-making or metacognition. Since its
introduction, augmented reality (AR) has been shown to have good potential in making the learning process
more active, effective and meaningful. This is because its advanced technology enables users to interact with
virtual and real-time applications and brings the natural experiences to the user. In addition, the merging of AR
with education has recently attracted research attention because of its ability to allow students to be immersed in
realistic experiences. Therefore, this concept paper reviews the research that has been conducted on AR. The
review describes the application of AR in a number of fields of learning including Medicine, Chemistry,
Mathematics, Physics, Geography, Biology, Astronomy and History. This paper also discusses the advantages of
AR compared to traditional technology (such as e-learning and courseware) and traditional teaching methods
(chalk and talk and traditional books). The review of the results of the research shows that, overall, AR
technologies have a positive potential and advantages that can be adapted in education. The review also indicates
the limitations of AR which could be addressed in future research.
Keywords: augmented reality, technology, education
1. Introduction
Technology has become embedded in education and the results indicate a positive impact on learning and
teaching styles. According to Shapley et al. (2011), lessons that are supported by technology will lead to more
innovative forms of teaching and learning. This is because the use of technology involves real-world problems,
current informational resources, simulations of concepts, and communication with professionals in the field. In
addition, learning using technology is believed to complement the traditional forms of teaching and learning
(Yasak et al., 2010).
The integration of technology tools into the curriculum is becoming part of good teaching (Pierson, 2001).
Teachers not only have to spend a good deal of personal time working with computers but also should have a
high level of innovation and confidence to use the new technologies that are embedded in contemporary
education. The integration of technology also provides a means to enhance student learning and engagement in
lectures. Therefore, recent studies have aimed to better understand the applications adapted during lectures from
the perspective of students, including multimedia, computer-based simulations, animations and statistical
software (Neumann et al., 2011). Research by Geer and Sweeney (2012) showed that the use of a variety of
media applications to explain concepts increased the understanding and supported greater collaboration between
Augmented reality (AR) is a new technology that has emerged with potential for application in education. While
a lot of research has been conducted on AR, few studies have been conducted in the education field. The number
of studies on AR is growing due to the effectiveness of this technology in recent years. AR has been used in
different fields in education. In particular, AR provides an efficient way to represent a model that needs
visualization (Singhal et al., 2012). AR also supports the seamless interaction between the real and virtual
environments and allows a tangible interface metaphor to be used for object manipulation (Singhal et al., 2012). International Education Studies Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
2. Background of Problem
In recent years, governments have implemented initiatives with the aim to improve the quality and effectiveness
of the teaching and learning process. Thus, there is a philosophy named as ‘Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan’
being created for the realization of this initiative. Besides, Malaysia is moving towards the title of a develop
country and this needs a community which knowledgeable, progressive, innovative and can contributes in
science and technology. These initiatives are motivated by the recognition that the traditional chalk and talk
teaching method and the use of static textbooks are failing to engage students and leading to poor learning
outcomes. In research conducted by Teoh and Neo (2007), for example, the respondents reported that it was
boring to just hear the lecturer talking in front of them. The students believed that the integration of technologies
would help them in their learning process. Therefore, educators have begun to seek technologies that have the
potential to be integrated in education in order to help students learn actively and to improve their understanding
especially in Science subjects. The following sub-sections discuss the issues that have arisen in relation to the
teaching and learning of Science and the ways in which technology such as AR can be applied to address these
2.1 Decreasing Number of Students Interested in Science Subjects
The study of Science is a complex process that includes identifying a problem, investigating the problem,
making hypotheses, planning the data collection method, testing the hypotheses, collecting the data and making
the conclusion and results (Meerah, 1998). Participating in these processes helps the student to think critically in
each step in order to gather the best results. Due to the popular perception among students that Science subjects
are hard subjects, fewer students are interested in pursuing their education in the Science stream.
According to Phang et al. (2012), the percentage of students pursuing their studies in the Science stream has
never reached 60% and there was a worrying trend of decreasing student numbers in this stream. The
Government of Malaysia has introduced a range of initiatives in order to address this problem but the target still
has not been reached. In the United Kingdom, there has also been a decrease in the number of students taking
Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry subjects and a similar trend throughout Europe where young people are not
choosing Science, Engineering and Technology subjects beyond compulsory subjects (Bevins, 2005).
Many studies have been conducted with the aim to learn from students about how to make them more interested
to study Science. One suggestion made by students that an expert should be present in the classroom to provide
them with the relevant context for the subject and make the classroom activities more exciting (Bevins, 2005).
Students prefer to learn in interactive ways rather than the traditional teaching methods. Research by Osman et al.
(2007) found that students are less interested in studying Science because of their perception that it is a boring
subject involving too many abstract concepts.
2.2 Students’ Difficulties in Visualizing Abstract Concepts
Students commonly find Science subjects to be abstract, requiring a depth of understanding and visualization
skills (Gilbert, 2004). When students have difficulties in understanding the concept well, it leads to
misconceptions. According to Palmer (2001), misconception among students has to be taken into account
because it can interfere with the students’ learning of scientific principles and concepts. Thus, the selection of
teaching method plays an important factor in avoiding or minimizing the students’ misconception (Palmer, 2001).
Visualization technologies have exciting potential for facilitating understanding and preventing misconceptions
in the scientific domain (Hay et al., 2000). Kozhevnikov and Thornton (2007) found that is possible to improve
students’ visualization skills by presenting a variety of abstract visual images and allowing the students to
manipulate and explore the images. There is a wide range of available technologies that can be used for the
visualization of abstract concepts.
Examples of visualization technologies that have been examined in previous research include animation, virtual
environments and simulation. Dede et al. (1996) suggest that students can improve their mastery of abstract
concepts through the use of virtual environments that have been designed for learning. Robertson et al. (2008)
found that animation together with interesting data and an engaging presenter helps the audience understand the
results of an analysis of information. These visualization technologies can be used to address the problem of
misconception and help students understand better.
2.3 Potential Technologies for Visualization of Abstract Concepts
Scientific concepts can be categorized as theoretical and descriptive concepts. Examples of descriptive concepts
can be found in Biology such as food chains and environmental factors. Theoretical concepts represent the
concepts that cannot be seen with the eye such as air pressure (colliding molecules) and photosynthesis (Lawson International Education Studies Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
et al., 2000).
Research has demonstrated the beneficial use of technology as a means of visualizing abstract concepts.
Visualization technologies provide a means for making visible phenomena that are too small, large, fast or slow
to see with the unaided eye (Cook, 2006). For example, Wu et al. (2001) developed an animation to help students
understand the abstract concepts in Chemistry. According to them, this type of technology allows students to
visualize the interactions among molecules and to understand the related chemical concepts. Stith (2004) used
software to create an animation of enzyme-substrate binding for teaching cell biology. The use of visualization
technologies such as these in education is becoming more advanced and more sophisticated.
Nowadays, one of the technologies that shows great potential in education especially in visualizing abstract
concepts is AR. According to Martin et al. (2011), AR is a new technology that is likely to have an impact on
education. This claim is supported by the Horizon Reports from 2004 to 2010 which describe AR as a
technology that brings the computer world to the human world (Madden, 2011). AR is different from virtual
reality because AR combines the real world with computer graphics, while virtual reality immerses the user in a
computer-generated world.
AR is a new way to improve the learning of three-dimensional shapes instead of the traditional method in which
teachers use wooden objects. According to Cerqueira and Kirner (2012), there are several advantages of using
AR techniques for educational purposes. For example, AR can minimize the misconceptions that arise due to the
inability of students to visualize concepts such as chemical bonds, because AR allows detailed visualization and
object animation. AR also has the advantage of allowing macro or micro visualization of objects and concepts
that cannot be seen with the naked eye. AR displays objects and concepts in different ways and at different
viewing angles which helps the students to better understand the subjects (Cerqueira & Kirner, 2012).
In addition, most of the research conducted on AR to date shows that students are excited and interested to learn
using this technology. For example, in research conducted by Klopfer and Squire (2008), students gave positive
feedback about their experience of the combination of the virtual and real environments. Burton et al. (2011) also
reported a similar result, with the participants in their study clearly excited about the potential of this technology
for sharing information and learning about new concepts. This feedback is useful in determining the readiness of
students to accept and use this new technology. AR also makes students become more active in the learning
process due to the interactivity of its applications (Lamounier et al., 2010). Thus, it encourages students to think
critically and creatively which, in turn, improves their experiences and understanding.
Table 1 summarises some of the advantages of AR in education that are highlighted in the literature. There are
many advantages when integrating AR technologies into the teaching and learning process; the advantages listed
in the table are the most common advantages that are usually emphasised.
Table 1. Advantages of using AR in education
The advantages of AR in education (highlighted above in Table 1) indicate that there is significant potential to
integrate AR in teaching and learning, especially for the subjects that require the students to visualize. However,
the meta-analysis conducted in the present study and the research by Danakorn et al. (2014) indicate that, even
though a lot of research has been conducted on AR, relatively few studies have been conducted on AR in the
education field.
3. Application of AR in Several Fields
This section presents a review of the extant research on the application of AR. This review is organized
Author Advantages of AR
Singhal et al. (2012) Supports seamless interaction between real and virtual environments and allows the use of a
tangible interface metaphor for object manipulation
Coffin et al. (2008) Provide instructors with a way to strengthen students’ understanding in the classroom by
augmenting physical props with virtual annotations and illustrations
Burton et al. (2011) Creates a learning experience that is linked to the formal classroom, so that students can learn
outside of class hours and outside of school limits
Medina, Chen, and
Weghorst (2008)
Enables the visualization of interactions among amino acids and protein building processes as
static 2D/3D images and 3D dynamic images (animations) International Education Studies Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
according to the application of AR technologies in a number of fields of study in education, namely, Medicine,
Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Biology, Astronomy and History. Research on the application of AR in these
fields is reviewed in order to evaluate the potential of AR in education. Table 2 summarizes the meta-analysis of
the research conducted on AR in different fields. The analysis includes examples of how the AR technology was
implemented in the respective fields.
3.1 Methodology
The goal of this review is to identify the potential use of AR in different fields of education. The keyword used in
the search of the literature was the phrase “Augmented Reality”. There were 463 hits from the keyword search,
of which nine were selected after taking into account certain criteria. Firstly, only studies conducted from 2007
were selected. This is because the AR technologies began to emerge in 2007. Secondly, the studies must
represent different fields in order to give examples of how AR has been used in a range of areas. Lastly, the
studies must highlight the purpose and the features of the AR technology that had been used. The search of the
literature was conducted using EdITLib which is the digital library for Education and Information Technology.
The results are presented in Table 2.
Table 2. Meta-analysis of research on the use of AR in different fields of education
Author/s Field Purpose of AR Use AR Features Used
Chang et al.
Medical education
(surgical training)
To provide training and to plan and guide
surgical procedures AR image-guided therapy
Yeom (2011) Medical education
To teach and test anatomy knowledge (of
the abdomen in particular)
Interactive 3D anatomy
pictures and haptic feedback
Hedegaard et
al. (2007)
Medical education using the
electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)
AR system (called the EKGAR
To extend medical students’ spatial
awareness in relation to specific
myocardial diseases by enabling users to
navigate through and slice open 3D
representations of a patient’s heart
Vision-based 3D tracking
technologies and interactive
Singal et al.
Chemistry education
To provide an efficient way to represent
and interact with molecules, leading to a
better understanding of the spatial relation
between molecules
AR technology for
exhibiting the models
Cerqueira &
To teach geometry through the use of 3D
geometrical concepts
Head-mounted display and
personal interaction panel
Mathison &
(School in the Park project)
To teach participants that habitats are
connected like links in a chain (food
AR experience
Coffin et al.
(2008) Physics
To overlay graphics on top of the physical
props to visualize these forces (speed,
velocity, acceleration, pressure, friction,
energy changes) invisible to the human
Augmented video,
videoconferencing, tracked
physical props (e.g. toy
Fleck &
To show augmented views of the celestial
bodies and support learning using spatial
visual guides and views from a terrestrial
AR learning environment
Martin et al.
(2011) History
To gather information and enhance the
experience of visitors to cultural
organisations (museums and
archaeological sites)
Mobile AR educational
games International Education Studies Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
As shown in the summary in Table 2 above, there are many fields in which AR technology is adapted and
applied for teaching and learning. Most of the research studies demonstrated the positive feedback of the
participants regarding the AR system under investigation. In conclusion, more research on the integration of AR
in teaching and learning should be conducted because of its clear benefits not only to students but also to
teachers. With the aid of AR technology, the teaching of subjects that involve visualization will be enhanced,
compared to the use of traditional methods alone.
4. Limitations of AR and Suggestions for Future Research
There are many aspects of AR technology that need to be explored and many future research investigations
remain to be conducted in this relatively new area. A number of limitations exist in this technology. For example,
according to Hsu and Huang (2011), many participants in an AR learning exercise agreed that the AR tools are
good but most participants did not consider the tools to be as effective as reading textbooks. They found that
using AR tools to obtain information was not easy. The reason might be that although the AR tool itself is easy to
operate, the procedure of sending the image, recognizing the text and then getting the meaning of the text is
time-consuming. This is because the technology used the 3G network to connect to the Internet. Accordingly, the
participants may need to wait a short time for the information to be sent back from the server (Hsu & Huang,
The identification of this limitation is supported by the results of a study by Folkestad and O’Shea (2011) where
the participants reported being frustrated when using the technology outdoors and had to resort to asking their
teacher for help. The results indicated that although the students encountered technical issues, they found
assistance, persisted with the task and engaged effectively in the unique learning process. Despite all the
difficulties, the level of engagement in the outdoor AR activities was still very high (Folkestad & O’Shea, 2011).
As mentioned earlier, the replication of studies related to AR is growing rapidly. However, the use of this kind of
technology is growing slowly in Malaysia especially in the education field. Thus, more researchers in the
education field should investigate the potential of AR to improve the teaching methods in the country’s education
system and to improve the efficiency of the teaching and learning process. For instance, the AR developed by
Burton et al. (2011) shows that participants were clearly excited about the potential of this technology for sharing
information and learning about new concepts.
Moreover, research should be conducted to investigate the latest technology called the mobile augmented reality
(MAR) system which is a smartphone application that is integrated with the AR itself. This new form of AR
technology offers a learning experience that is linked to the formal classroom so that students can learn outside
of class hours and outside of school limits (Burton, 2011).
The limitations stated above mostly highlight the issues related to the technical aspects of using AR in the
learning process. Such technical issues must be improved in the future in order for AR to be widely applied in
education. Lamounier et al. (2010) also pointed out that there needs to be improvements in Internet portability in
order to facilitate user access to AR systems for learning. Increased Internet access will give students the
opportunity to use AR via a smartphone. This has the potential to make AR a powerful learning tool that can help
students to gain content knowledge and maintain that knowledge through their interactions with the smartphone
5. Conclusion
This review of the research conducted in several fields in education shows that AR technology has the potential
to be further developed in education. This is because the advantages and beneficial uses of AR features are able
to engage students in learning processes and help improve their visualization skills. The features can also help
teachers to explain well and make the students easily understand what they are taught. The use of AR technology
has also received positive feedback from participants and students who have shown their interest in using AR in
their learning processes. These good responses are important because they indicate the willingness of students to
actively engage in their studies through AR tools. AR technology is still new in education, thus there are still
some limitations. However, the review of the research indicates that most of the limitations are related to
technical issues. Such limitations can be overcome over time as research on the integration of AR in education is
replicated and improved. When the potential of AR technologies is more fully explored, the beneficial functions
of AR can begin to be used widely in all fields of education and the efficiency of the teaching and learning
process will be improved. International Education Studies Vol. 8, No. 13; 2015
The authors would like to thank the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Ministry of Higher Education Malaysia
for their support in making this project possible. This work was supported by the Research University Grant
(Q.J130000.2631.10J52) initiated by the Universiti Teknologi Malaysia and Ministry of Higher Education.
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... 24, núm. 2 (2020), 217-237 m) el sujeto permanece en el mundo real y por tanto no pierde la contextualización, y n) favorece el desarrollo del aprendizaje descontextualizado. Otro factor que motiva el desarrollo de la realidad aumentada en la educación es el enfoque plateado por Richardson (2016), y Kim y Hyun (2016) Por lo que se refiere a sus limitaciones, diferentes autores, Cabero, J.; Barroso J. y Llorente C. 2019; Bower et al., 2014;Saidin et al., 2015;Nielsen et al., 2016;Alkhattabi, 2017, las concretan en los siguientes enunciados: a) existen más desarrollos tecnológicos que prácticas educativas; b) la novedad está llevando a una falta de reflexión teórica; c) falta de fundamentación de modelos teóricos para su incorporación; d) faltan materiales educativos; e) dificultad de manejo en determinados contextos; f) la falta de experiencia de interacción con estos objetos por los estudiantes; la lentitud de internet en las escuelas; g) formación del profesorado; y h) limitadas investigaciones. ...
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