OpenReal (pilot)

OpenReal (pilot): Learning in the real world


With this pilot, the Institute of Educational Technology (IET) seeks to evaluate the impact of eXtended Reality (XR) learning on student experience, engagement, and learning effectivity. Expanding from the pilot version of the OpenReal project, during the proof of concept phase IET will develop cost-efficient models for production and roll out of eXtended Reality (XR) learning across the student population of The Open University.


The Covid-19 pandemic has boosted Digital Education activities across Higher Education Institutions. Due to this, HEIs, other institutions and policy makers are turning to the OU for leadership and innovation to develop new ways of delivering learning.

Accelerated by the pandemic, eXtended Reality (XR) – along the continuum of virtual, mixed, and augmented reality – is one of the promising areas that is being pushed into the mainstream, and the proof-of-concept is now more mature and ready to engage in pilots.

Within this project, rigorous evaluation as part of responsible research will help set the stage for the planned university-wide introduction in the operational environments of a running module.

Insights required for moving towards the university-wide implementation of eXtended Reality (XR) include: identifying evidence for how the new approach and technology will affect student engagement and experience, what technological acceptance is to be expected among our student population, what level of usability students associate with the application, and how the XR learning activities impact on performance.

Moreover, to prepare for a roll-out, we will study drivers and barriers to adoption, and develop new models for roll-out (which can include the use of smart devices, purchase recommendations, assess the needs for a digital poverty hardship fund, explore rental options for smart glasses and related logistics and explore models for community lending libraries).

Additionally, the pilot will continue to provide support in the development and maintenance of software, as well as support in design and content production. For example, enhanced support for learning design can be added to the production environment and standards-compliant learning analytics (xAPI) will be further improved.

The role of IET

With the proof-of-concept, we have built an authoring tool and viewer application and a range of proof-of-concept augmented reality learning experiences. This delivers digital information registered directly in 3D, in the physical surroundings of the learner, thus embedding learning in the real-world context where competence is later put to action. The applications are available on four platforms (iOS, Android, Hololens 1, Hololens 2) complemented by a repository server and web editor that is integrated into Moodle in form of a Moodle plugin. OpenReal helps guide users step-by-step, through learning activities, providing theory in situ where the knowledge is applied.

This pilot will build on the success of the proof-of-concept and add evaluation, content production, software development, professional development support material, IT support models.


The pilot collects evidence, evaluating feasibility for university-wide deployment of XR learning with OpenReal, measuring student experience (XR user experience, learning experience, and demographics and their infrastructure/support requirements).

Research programmes


  • The Open University