Augmenting Reality in Bioscience Education

Darryl O'Hare, William Hurst, Andrew Sands, Conor Forker, John Barrow

Research output: Contribution to conferencePosterpeer-review


Most early stage undergraduate bioscience curricula cover organ systems physiology, cell physiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. Across all of these disciplines, a vast quantity of fundamental concepts are covered, which are abstract in nature. Based on student feedback, traditional lectures and tutorial based teaching do not always convey these abstract concepts well so do not allow for a full understanding of the material. Therefore, visualisation of cellular processes can allow students to appreciate the concepts and mechanisms being studied in a more effective way than traditional wrote learning styles. Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) have a real potential to transform the education of students across many fields, through the creation of visual and immersive learning environments. As an initial pilot study, we have created an AR application for secondary school pupils to enhance their understanding of metabolism, specifically linked to dietary glucose absorption and cellular uptake of glucose in response to insulin signalling. The educational experience couples a mobile device application with traditional wrote learning to give a blended experience of how these dynamic processes work. The study presented here was conducted in the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition at the University of Aberdeen. Ninety participants were self-selected by completing a survey as part of a second year undergraduate biochemistry course that forms part of the core curriculum for the majority of life science degree programmes. Of the ninety questionnaire participants, eight were randomly selected to take part in a focus group and seven volunteered to test the AR application. Questionnaire data showed 40% enjoyed half of their lectures and 49% enjoyed almost all lectures, showing scope for potential improvements in lecture delivery and content. 51% of participants agreed or strongly agreed that they make detailed lecture notes, leaving nearly half of students not making detailed notes. 38% of participants were neutral and 19% agreed or strongly agreed that PowerPoint slides were boring, signifying there could be enhancements in teaching materials. When asked how lectures could be made more enjoyable, the top five free-text response words were “interactive”, “engaging”, “examples”, “videos” and “interaction”, showing the use of AR in the classroom could be beneficial. 98% of participants own a smartphone, 93% have a laptop and 40% have a tablet, so bringing their own devices to class should minimise expenditure of such technology initiatives. 92% agree or strongly agree that being able to “see” abstract concepts would help their learning. In summary, this research suggests the selective use of AR is one way to embed engaging educational content into the teaching of abstract concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2019
EventPhysiology 2019 - Aberdeen Exhibition & Conference Centre, Aberdeen, United Kingdom
Duration: 8 Jul 201910 Jul 2019


ConferencePhysiology 2019
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • augmented reality
  • education
  • visualisation


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