Team Learning and Changing Realities: Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality in the Learning Organization

As part of my studies for the Executive Chief Learning Officer graduate certificate at George Mason University, I’m studying the book Building the Learning Organization: Achieving Strategic Advantage through a Commitment to Learning.

The book has been a great read so far, and I can see it becoming a go-to reference in years ahead on how to transform and build organizations committed to continuous knowledge and performance improvement.


Last week, we read chapters 3-5 of Building the Learning Organization. In the third chapter, the author, Michael J. Marquardt, teaches us what it takes to build learning dynamics on individual, group, and organization levels.

I really enjoyed reading the section on group or team learning.

Marquardt writes:

“Team learning meets the need to think insightfully about complex issues. Through innovative, coordinated action, teams learn how to tap the potential of many minds. Outstanding teams develop operational trust, in that each team member remains conscious of the others and acts in ways that complement their actions. This is how outstanding and sports teams and orchestras work and learn together.

“Team learning requires these three elements:

  • The need to address complex issues through collective insight
  • The need for innovative, coordinated action
  • The ability to encourage and stimulate learning in other teams”

Marquardt then begins to describe software that enables teams to collaborate in team learning experiences, called Groupware. Marquardt ranks groupware into three categories, in ascending complexity. 1) Teleconference, 2) Videoconference, and 3) 3D presence.

Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) would definitely be able to provide those 3D presence collaborative learning experiences, but has groupware been made for the latest platforms emerging on the market today? This is a critical question, because, unlike the age of Second Life and previous attempts to create online Virtual Learning Environments, this is the first time I think that these tools may just catch on in a truly ubiquitous manner.

Before we get started, take a moment to enjoy this video, featuring people becoming acquainted with the HTC Vive.

Can you think of how learning professionals may be able to take advantage of such technology to create immersive learning experiences?


Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock lately, it would be pretty hard to miss that Microsoft is killing it. They are hands down leading in just about every way imaginable on the technology front lately.

Here’s a few of the ways they’re amazing the world right now. Note that I started it at the most relevant moment (Microsoft using the HoloLens to teach medical students anatomy), but the whole video is very well worth watching.

My favorite video demonstrating the AR experiences that are soon to be on the market portrays the “holoportation” elements that HoloLens and the HoloLens tracking system will work. It’s easy to see how this directly applies to cooperative learning environments.

HoloLens is not the only AR device on the market. In fact, you should not go out and get a HoloLens at this point. The DAQRI helmet actually has my favorite current-gen AR that’s in the field at this point.

Have you heard of the Meta 2? It seriously looks to be the best AR device on the market.

I also really enjoyed TechCrunch’s report on this.

Have you ever read Will McCarthy’s Bloom? McCarthy’s books* are wonderful! In Bloom, the main characters use devices very similar to glasses as their primary AR/VR interfaces, and they can wear them all the time. Some of the characters walk around surrounded by “spheres of information.”

TechCrunch’s report proves we’re closer than ever to seeing McCarthy’s vision become a reality. And I wonder what groupware made for AR learning experiences will look like?

Do you know if anyone is providing groupware for collaborative learning experiences using these technologies?


Microsoft is perfectly positioned when it comes to VR. For the time being, you need PCs or certain video game consoles (PlayStation and Xbox are both working hard on their VR integration) in order to run a VR experience on either the Occulus Rift or the HTC Vive. Microsoft has partnered heavily with Occulus (now owned by Facebook) to create the Rift. While Microsoft had little to do with the Vive’s development, Steam partnered with HTC to create it, and all of the VR titles coming out on Steam currently require a PC to operate.

I mention both of these platforms because both offer different affordances and should be examined closely before considering which should be chosen to develop groupware for. There are far more than these platforms trying to enter the VR space, but I believe these to be the two dominant contenders competing for industry leadership.

In case you are not familiar with them, take the time to do so below.

Oculus Rift

HTC Vive

Between the two…

I’m rooting for the Vive. I’m a big fan of those controllers and that front-facing camera. If there is a contender for creating one device that can support both VR and AR experiences with any fidelity, and even merge these forms in amazing ways, the Vive is the only one on the market now allowing this (But-oh-my-goodness-this-game-is-AWESOME*).

It’s easy to see how deep, scenario-based, story-driven, immersive, interactive learning experiences can be crafted using these products.

But will we create these kinds of learning experiences? Will we craft groupware to facilitate these kinds of collaborative learning experiences?

A lot of research has been done on Virtual Learning Environments, and I hope to share some of the knowledge gleaned from them in future posts on my blog. However, in the meantime, feel free to check out the following. Don’t hesitate to let me know if there’s other more recent research that I should be taking a look at.

Virtual Reality for Collaborative E-Learning

Real-time Collaborative Virtual Interactive E-Learning Environment

Co-operative Learning in a Virtual Reality Environment through Idea Generation

Somewhat tangentially related

Did you see this video featuring Microsoft Cognitive Services and the Seeing AI app? Would be pretty interesting to see this applied to performance support and figuring out tricky wiring/plumbing/repair issues – or even health issues.


The world is an amazing place, and it is certainly a wonderful time to be alive. I hope to be working on projects taking advantage of the latest technologies to create meaningful learning experiences that help people and organizations be their best.

And let’s all hope that we can craft learning experiences that inspire these kinds of reactions.

*You should really read Collapsium, as well.

**Currently, EVE: Valkyrie is only available for the Oculus Rift (sigh – although I can’t afford any of these devices right now anyway).

Icons used in featured image were sourced from caba kosmotesto.