Pearson teams with Microsoft to pilot virtual training content


ANAHEIM, Calif. – Pearson and Microsoft are exploring new ways to use of Microsoft’s HoloLens technology to advance online training and tutoring of nurses, engineers, surveyors and other professionals, Pearson officials announced today.

Pearson officials said the learning services company has begun developing and piloting a mixture of virtual and augmented reality content for use at colleges, universities, and secondary schools in the United States and around the world. The goal is to use the immersive technology to provide students with real world learning experiences, allowing them to build proficiency and explore concepts that are otherwise hard to replicate.

Microsoft’s HoloLens combines aspects of virtual and augmented reality, where holographic and digital information can be superimposed on what viewers see and hear, creating a potentially powerful tool for learning.

“Until now, we’ve still be teaching the way we have for the past 30 years. We have newer technology tools, but the teaching process is the same,” Mark Christian, Pearson’s global director for immersive technologies, told EdScoop at this week’s EDUCAUSE education technology conference. “The mobile revolution made text material readable on more devices and more convenient, but it hasn’t been transformative.”

Christian argues that using holographic imagery and 3-D modeling, combined with the power of augmented or mixed reality, creates a new way to leverage the best of traditional classroom teaching.

Pearson officials said today it is working Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in Lubbock and San Diego State University to develop mixed reality content to solve a variety of challenges in nursing education. The company is collaborating with faculty at both universities to find ways to make the mixed reality simulations more valuable and effective for students.

Philip Greiner, director of the School of Nursing at San Diego State University sees tremendous promise in being able to “work with Pearson and Microsoft to develop these education components for nursing education” as a way to help students gain experience diagnosing patients, and build their confidence and competence that they will need in their careers.

Pearson is also testing a different mixed reality pilot at Bryn Mawr College, a liberal arts college in Pennsylvania, which combines Pearson’s 24/7 online tutoring service, Smarthinking, with Skype. Bryn Mawr will experiment with using holographs and mixed reality to explore 3-D content and concepts in a number of academic disciplines, including physics, biology, and archaeology.

At the heart of the collaboration between Pearson and Microsoft is a process that captures holographic video, using 200 cameras, according to Christian, that succeeds in building true 3-D images, not two dimensional renderings that appear to be three dimensional.

The video capture technology, for example, allows Pearson to film people with various health concerns and then transfer the video into holograms superimposed in a clinical setting. Using Microsoft’s HoloLens devices, student nurses can experience simulations that incorporate real world situations and practice diagnosing patients.

In that pilot, students wear the HoloLens device and are immersed in a virtual space where remote tutors provide them with coaching and support, just like they were sitting next to one another at a table.

While just in its early stages, the pilot training programs represent an out-of-the-box approach, where mixed reality solutions can providing students with just-in-time support from expert tutors when they are struggling with a concept or topic, Pearson officials said.