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Examining the Social Construction of Cross-reality Technologies in Learning

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2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access


Virtual Conference

Publication Date

July 26, 2021

Start Date

July 26, 2021

End Date

July 19, 2022

Conference Session

Computers in Education 10 - Technology 2

Tagged Division

Computers in Education

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Paper Authors


Valerie Varney TH Cologne Orcid 16x16

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Dr. Valerie Varney is head of the AR/VR department of the Cologne Cobots Lab and TrainING Center at TH Cologne, Germany. Her research focuses on the social construction of technological innovations in engineering education as well as learning organizations.

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Dominik May University of Georgia Orcid 16x16

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Dr. May is an Assistant Professor in the Engineering Education Transformations Institute. He researches online and intercultural engineering education. His primary research focus lies on the development, introduction, practical use, and educational value of online laboratories (remote, virtual, and cross-reality) and online experimentation in engineering instruction. In his work, he focuses on developing broader educational strategies for the design and use of online engineering equipment, putting these into practice and provide the evidence base for further development efforts. Moreover, Dr. May is developing instructional concepts to bring students into international study contexts so that they can experience intercultural collaboration and develop respective competences. Dr. May is Vice President of the International Association of Online Engineering (IAOE), which is an international non-profit organization to encourage the wider development, distribution, and application of Online Engineering (OE) technologies and its influence on society. Furthermore, he serves as Editor-in-Chief for the International Journal of Emerging Technologies in Learning (iJET) intending to promote the interdisciplinary discussion of engineers, educators, and engineering education researchers around technology, instruction, and research. Dr. May has organized several international conferences in the Engineering Education Research field. He is currently program co-chair and international program committee member for the annual International Conference on Remote Engineering and Virtual Instrumentation (REV) and served as a special session committee member for the Experiment@ International Conference Series (

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Using Virtual and Augmented Reality as tools for teaching and learning has become a challenging and motivating task for some researchers and lecturers at universities worldwide. However, a widespread use of these technologies in the education sector has so far failed to materialise. Although a high amount of didactic potential is still attributed to these technologies, only a few teachers manage to use them effectively while most avoid the technologies altogether. For those taking on the challenge of creating a learning environment supported by innovative technologies it is often the technology itself that appeals without a specific application in mind that might present an added value: The driving force behind using technology to foster learning activities often is the existence of a (mostly new) technology with certain features and functionalities and the urge to find a use case. This approach, however, might be one of the reasons why many efforts trying to get more lecturers to use technology for teaching and learning purposes are made in vain. While the pressure lecturers faced to rapidly switch to online teaching due to the outbreak and worldwide spread of Covid-19, the willingness and ability to use Mixed Reality in classrooms is still at a low. Social constructivists consider the purpose of technology a human one. According to the Social Construction of Technology Theory, technological innovations do not determine human action. It is the human actions and the way they choose to use certain technologies that define and shape them. Every technological innovation leads back to a social process and context that forms the basis of its existence. This paper aims to identify reasons for the failure of Mixed Reality as a widespread tool for learning. Based on the results the authors develop a process that puts a special focus on the social context and didactic requirements of lecturers in the field Engineering Education. Their interdisciplinary research is based on principles of Engineering combined with sociological principles of knowledge. By adapting the Social Construction of Technology Theory (SCOT), the authors acknowledge that in order to understand the reasons for the acceptance or ignorance of Mixed Reality, knowledge about the social context is the key: Who defined the features of Virtual and Augmented Reality and what purpose was it supposed to fulfil? By analyzing examples of successes and failures of existing technologies, the authors aim to draw conclusions and recommendations towards the future use of Mixed Reality for learning contexts.

Varney, V., & May, D. (2021, July), Examining the Social Construction of Cross-reality Technologies in Learning Paper presented at 2021 ASEE Virtual Annual Conference Content Access, Virtual Conference.

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