Classrooms of the future will not be real

The 3D technology operates by creating the illusion of three-dimensional imagery.

By Sheryl Buckley and Moses J. Strydom

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Published: Sat 17 Sep 2016, 3:58 PM

Last updated: Sat 17 Sep 2016, 10:43 PM

Groundbreaking 3D hologram technology will create a virtual classroom. The new hologram is a creative innovation that will transform electronic modes of teaching. It will give lecturers and students a semblance of the classroom when they may be at home or anywhere else.
The 3D technology operates by creating the illusion of three-dimensional imagery. A light source is projected onto the surface of an object and scattered. A second light illuminates the object to create interference between both sources. Essentially, the two light sources interact with each other and cause diffraction, which appears as a 3D image. This form of mobile-learning has been hailed as an effective teaching tool of the future. It allows teachers to provide instruction from home with holographic images of students via an electronic multimedia device.
The 3D hologram provides a lifelike experience. Students will also be able to see the teacher and fellow learners using mobile devices. This will give teachers and students the impression that they are in the same physical space.
The main barriers to integrating the technology into learning environments are the high costs of setting it up and the lack of fast internet connection.
Since the start of the 20th century major progress has been made in how electronic media is used. The advantages offered by this media have persuaded most educational institutions to integrate e-learning in their teaching. At the same time, advancements in technology have enabled teachers, academics and students to move from traditional chalkboards and opt for interactive white boards or smart boards.
Various network-based methods are used to complement classroom education to reduce the effects of distance, making it independent of time and physical location. Now, the 3D hologram technology promises to be able to group all parties for an even more lifelike experience.
Future e-learning will use technology that will deliver a course in the same way as happens in a physical classroom. The inherent characteristics of the lesson sequence in a face-to-face classroom which would be reproduced in the e-learning framework will be so accurately replicated so that the learner will feel physically in the presence of both his or her teacher and fellow students.
The student will be consequently unaware of the distance and the technical device that separates him or her from the teacher and other students.
Technological developments tend to spawn new working methods that, in turn, require new skills. This will spur workers to embrace distance learning as it would allow them to continue their education while pursuing their professional activities. They will not need to take time off from work to attend evening classes - the class can take place at home or their place of work.
Telecommunications networks will become dense and easily available at lower prices. E-Learning as practised today emphasises written communication - messaging, chat, forum, and wiki - to the detriment of audio-visual communication. But the arrival of smartphones and tablets, given their popularity within the student community, will boost audio-visual communication.
Although smartphone and tablet screens might appear inadequate for audio-visual communication, with the extension of the projection of holographic images in three dimensions a great revolution is being ushered-in. It is now possible to project the image of a smartphone or tablet as a 3D holographic image.
The virtual world gives a greater sense of presence than discussion boards. The result is that the students get a better feel for the teacher and subject matter. Studies have indicated that this style of learning results in better retention and understanding of a given topic. This will unquestionably make a pre-eminent contribution to the field of e-learning.
Sheryl Buckley is Director of the School of Computing, University of South Africa. Moses J. Strydom is Professor in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, University of South Africa.
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