Wearable Devices- The Next Big Thing in Learning?

Published by MBA Skool Team, Published on July 12, 2016

Imagine this:

A mobile company receives customer complaints about poor call quality in a particular area. The technician assigned to the problem travels to the faulty tower. He climbs 200 feet to the top and discovers an issue he has not encountered before. Sitting atop the tower, he clicks on his head-mounted device, connects to the company’s solution repository and speaks some keywords. A few solutions pop up on his screen. He finds the right one and solves the problem. A few voice commands later, he speaks with his supervisor who validates that service has been restored. Time to celebrate a job well done!

Sounds like science fiction? Try this.

Imagine a classroom. The teacher clicks a button on her headgear and projects a presentation on a wall. No wires! She walks around the room as she speaks. Are the students bored? She asks a multiple choice question. Students select answers on their tablets. She instantly sees each student’s response and an aggregate of how many students answered the question correctly. Oops! Only 50% has grasped this topic! She asks her device to open an animated Youtube video that explains the concept. That should help them.

Image: pixabay


This was a real-life experiment called ‘Glass in Class’ conducted by Adam Winkle, winner of the Golden Apple Award for teaching excellence. He reported a 36% increase in students’ comprehension solely from the use of Google Glass in the classroom. Students use them to record how they solve math problems and instantly upload videos that their classmates can reuse. Teachers use them to measure learning effectiveness.


Wearable technology is real. It is happening around us right now.


So, What Are Wearables?

The term ‘wearable’ encompasses a vast range of computing devices that integrate with the human body. These include head-mounted displays (like Google Glass), smartwatches and fitness bands. They can even be embedded into clothing or footwear.

Wearables are opening up possibilities in hands-free computing. Using simple voice commands (or in some cases, a heartbeat!), they provide access to electronic resources and enable real-time communication in situations where using laptops or smartphones is infeasible. They blur the human-computer divide, making us a part of our computing devices and boosting engagement like never before.

Disneyworld offers customers MagicBands – wearable wristbands that authenticate their visits to the park, monitor usage of rides and register payments at park hotels. Customers spend less time waiting in queues and enjoy being wallet-free within park premises. Based on the rides used by a family, Disney determines the location and favorite cartoon of every child visiting the facility. Can you imagine a child’s excitement when her favorite character greets her with a birthday gift? Wearables make such incredible experiences possible.


Most wearable devices use Intel’s Edison – a microchip the size of a 2 Rupee coin, that houses an entire operating system. You may have heard of Nixie – a camera that jumps from your wrist and positions itself mid-air to click your best selfie or BabyBe – a towel that transmits mothers’ heartbeats to premature babies in incubators to calm them. These are just a few transformative wearable devices built using Edison.


How does wearable tech influence Learning & Development?

#1 Narrating complex tasks:

Surgeons in the US have begun using head-mounted wearables while conducting surgery. As the surgeon narrates each step, the camera captures the nuances of the procedure ‘as he sees it’. This first-person view makes learning possible to a greater degree: which way did the surgeon turn? what instruments did he use? was he confused? how did he handle unforeseen complications? Students of surgery can observe this unprecedented level of detail from around the world.

Mechanics at Diamler Chrysler operate similarly when they encounter any unusual problems with Mercedes Benz cars. The mechanic turns on his wearable and records the steps he takes to solve the problem. This is added to a video repository which other mechanics can access in real time using their wearables when they encounter a similar situation.


#2 Enhancing contextual learning:

Providing the right level of information in the right context at the right time goes a long way in enhancing human capability in the workplace.

DAQRI is a US-based startup that manufactures augmented reality helmets for industries. The digital helmet automatically senses a worker’s location within the facility and identifies gadgets in his immediate environment. For example, if he walks into a repair yard for jet planes, the sensors in his helmet capture that. The helmet automatically inspects hundreds of mechanical components in the vicinity, identifies faulty parts and displays them on an attached retractable lens. A step-by-step solution is also displayed; the worker only needs to execute these steps. What would have taken hours of painstaking research is now resolved in minutes!


#3 Targeted coaching:

Projects like ‘Glass In Class’ prove that the traditional model of paper-based evaluation is dead. L&D professionals can use wearables to administer micro-tests online and collect live feedback. They can assess engagement and comprehension in real time and adapt program delivery on-the-go. More engaging sessions = Greater recall = Increased application of content on-the-job.

Companies now use wearables to onboard new hires by giving them an immersive introduction experience. Employee directories and training materials are pre-loaded onto a wearable device equipped with facial recognition technology, making it easier for the employee to recognize colleagues and recall concepts during the first few days on the job.

Wearables also provide just-in-time coaching. Drivers of heavy vehicles use wearables while traveling long distances; the device monitors their driving and gives immediate instructions in case of any errors.


I believe wearables are much more than the next big fad; they will transform how we live and work. Once wearables are fully integrated into the Internet of Things, they will revolutionize how employees and organizations learn.


Are YOU ready to wear your learning on your sleeve?

This article has been authored by Anjana Karumathil from University of Strathclyde

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