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Wearable Technology Is Changing Higher Education: Entrepreneurs, Are You Taking Note?

Technavio’s market research reveals that the market for classroom wearable technology in the U.S will grow by 46% Year-on-Year by 2020. This is not surprising, as we know it.

More people now spend time on a mobile device than on any electronic gadget. In the U.S alone, the Internet usage on mobile devices is at 51% compared to desktops and laptops (which come in at 41%).

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The number of global users of smartphones and mobile devices now hovers around 1.6 billion and is set to grow. TV screen time is shrinking. Desktops are already clunky and hard to work with. Laptops are sticking in there but mobile devices rule the order of the day. Most people (including millennials) start their days with their mobile devices and go to sleep with them. Search, research, shopping, mobile apps, gaming, shopping, eCommerce, and utility apps account for the majority of time spent by consumers on their phones.

As such, businesses aren’t falling behind in catching the train and have steadily increase mobile marketing spend. Since more than 80% of Internet users now own a smartphone, it’s not the end of the story. More devices connected to the Internet now arise, such as smart TVs, smart watches, and smart wristbands.

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Now, to add to all that, say hello to “wearables” – things that will be strapped to your body and everything suddenly gets even smarter. Wristbands can monitor your heart rate, number of footsteps you take, and even how well you slept. But, there’s more. Possibly every industry will benefit from the mind-boggling data exchange that can potentially happen between devices and humans.

It’s inevitable that the rise of wearable technology extends itself into various industries and many areas find uses for it, including health, retail and education. Here’s a glimpse of how wearables are already making an impact on higher education:

The Big Connect

Students, universities, teachers, parents, and partner companies (along with vendors, necessary services) will all be able to connect with apps on their phones, tablets, or laptops (all synced) from their wristbands. The last few years have already seen the intertwining of smartphone apps and devices. Wearables will only make this connect and data flow much faster and a lot more seamless.

Teachers, for instance, can launch on-the-spot assignments. They could remind students of classwork, room changes, postponements and cancellations instantly. Parents can receive student-wise remarks, reports, and progress on the go.

The best smartglasses, for instance, can enable face recognition, biometric authorization, and many other features that not only make for a better infrastructure for security but also make students, teachers, and other associated communities feel as a part of one single entity.

Go Anywhere, Without Going

Google’s Expeditions now allows students to tour the Great Wall of China and actually calculate how long it takes to walk from one tower to another.

Or students now get to see the Galapagos Islands and discover animal species (and even classify them) while a class on Charles Darwin is on.

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Using software built with data input from teachers, immersive reality content, VR devices, virtual reality panorama (that includes 360-degree spheres, video, audio, and images) along with Google’s associated partners make it all possible with a single app.

Virtual & Augmented Reality

Immersive education more impact it has on students.

Teachers know that. Universities and colleges are beginning to understand that. Technology is making its way in already. Concepts like virtual and augmented reality will change the way higher education is delivered. Augmented reality brings in a new dimension to sports, for instance. Coaches can now actually run with a football, make the moves, show how passes and tackles are executed.

Students learning subjects as varied as arts and biology can now recreate movements and experiments, and learn faster. Now apply that to whatever your imagination produces!

  • As students walk through museums, apps can help students identify and learn what each monument or artifact stands for, its historical significance, and even some history to tag along with it.
  • Students taking advanced science and engineering courses could work with 3D renderings of engine blocks instead of having to draw and imagine engine parts, in order to make their learning not only visual but also interactive. A chemistry class could see how atoms move, electrons collide, and break down the composition of dense materials as graphically as possible.
  • The most relatively straightforward tasks, including those of an office manager, require decision-making skills, on which business schools and consulting firms place special emphasis. Research firm Gartner reported that “AR technology has matured to a point where organizations can use it as an internal tool to complement and enhance business processes, workflows and employee training.”

Wearables Can Be Utilitarian Too

If a university is spread across a large swathe of land, it could be confusing for students to get from one building to another. Wearables can also be utilitarian as in helping students find classrooms, auditoriums, and other departmental buildings.

Universities could also launch a campus-wide publication, podcasts, news, and even post part-time job listings for students on the go. Wearables could make paying tuition fees easier, managing credits for graduation, and make sure professors and students stayed in loop, always connected.

Experimental & Experiential Learning

The biggest promise of wearables, data, content, virtual reality and augmented reality is the possibility that technology can now enable students in higher education (or almost every level of education) to gain access to concepts and methods of learning that were not possible until now. They’re getting to experience things they could never hope to see in their lifetimes due to the danger quotient, geographical barriers, language barriers, and lack of resources.

With experimental and experiential learning, education switches quickly to another level, while bringing unparalleled control for teachers and universities. Student safety, course tracking, attendance, grades, classes, curriculum, exams, and almost everything else can be channeled with wearables in the mix.

None of this is science fiction. Microsoft’s HoloLens, Facebook’s Oculus Rift, and many already-available VR devices will slowly but surely make their way to colleges, universities and schools all over the world.

Now It’s Your Turn

Are you ready to tap into the opportunity that the intersection of wearables and academics provides for technology entrepreneurs globally? Will you be building VR devices, developing AR apps, or producing content in 3D or 4D? Let us know in the comments what “earn and learn” ideas you have, if any, for the wearables space.

Images: Author’s Own


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Lori Wagoner is a market research consultant. She advises small businesses on new ways to find local and national business. You can catch her on Twitter @loridwagoner.

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