Education is in a state of constant change because the world is constantly changing.

With these changes have come advancements in technology that are bringing opportunities to educators and students that allow for experiences previously considered unthinkable.  As tools become more accessible to students and with increased educator understanding, we start to see instructional shifts that better benefit learners. Perhaps no technologies have provided as much excitement around these shifts than Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR).

The term Extended Reality (XR) is used to describe AR, VR, and all realities on the mixed reality spectrum. XR can be leveraged to provide students with in-the-moment experiences that relate to their immediate surroundings. With XR, we have the abilities to deploy interactive museum pieces and models and transport students to locations relevant to our content of study. We can also support student identification of elements and objects around them and throughout the world. These types of learning opportunities allow students to maintain an unprecedented sense of mindfulness toward their learning context, developing meaning at a whole new level.

To help people adopt new technologies like XR we need a way to describe research-based, best practice-tested applications. The XR ABC Framework serves as a guide intended to focus our conversation around effective and efficient uses of XR in education.

There are many reasons to use Virtual Reality in the classroom and it is easy to get wrapped up in the excitement and enthusiasm of students trying something new, but the most powerful learning experiences are in the conversation that follows the tool use. We believe giving a platform that provides a voice for XR-experienced educators is paramount. The XR ABC Framework provides a common language for instructional practice around XR while comprehensively illustrating objectives and standards which can be used to communicate the effectiveness of instruction.

The XR ABC Framework has evolved from both research-based and best practice-tested cases which demonstrate how XR can be used to improve learning and learning outcomes.

The XR ABC Framework

In XR, and classroom software solutions, we often talk about consuming and creating as two levels of interactivity afforded by the technology. Through research and practice we have found that an area exists between these two levels that is a combination, or blend, of capabilities. The XR ABC framework describes areas of interactivity in XR as Absorb, Blend, and Create.


Absorb means to use readily available apps and experiences to engage students in virtual field trips and observations of 3D models. Absorb experiences support increased understanding and recall. 

  • AR Absorb experiences observe content that augments or improves, the learning experience with minimal interactivity. To experience AR in an Absorb manner means to use it to add to our experience in a somewhat simple and static manner which differs from Blend and Create where we are manipulating or creating objects in AR. These experiences can be accessed through AR targets, geographic locations, or by apps which use devices. The applications of AR Absorb are WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get). The learning curve is low for AR Absorb and almost every student and educator can take advantage of the benefits they offer right away. 
  • VR Absorb experiences allow users to visit distant and theoretical places to see things with their own eyes from the first-person perspective. VR Absorb experiences are WYSIWYG with a low interactivity level. We should not dismiss these types of experiences, simple VR Absorb field trips, can be incredibly powerful when paired with meaningful conversations and thoughtful instructional delivery.


Blend means to modify existing content by employing available apps and experiences to modify or move objects in order to apply, analyze, and evaluate content. Blend experiences are not truly creating, rather manipulating characters, blocks, etc., that are preloaded into the XR applications. Blend is the in-between state of consuming content while manipulating it, but not creating something entirely new. 

  • AR Blend learners have the opportunity to change the outcome of an experience while working within pre-existing content.  It is a step beyond AR absorb, because there is manipulation and change taking place in the experience. It is engaging for the learner while intuitive to those who are not ready for the concept of creation.
  • VR Blend is the state of consuming content while manipulating it, but not creating something entirely new.  In VR, the concept of Blend affords learners the opportunity to change the immersive experience’s outcome while working within pre-existing content. VR Blend allows users the opportunity to engage in their VR experience in order to have choice in a more meaningful and personalized encounter. 


Create means to develop new content by leveraging available tools to synthesize and develop new experiences. Create experiences are used to truly demonstrate an understanding of content through the construction of XR experiences, objects, stories etc., that did not previously exist within the XR applications.

  • AR Create learning experiences brings the learner from simply consuming content to creating it. For learners to create their own content, educators are required to have a different mindset toward the learning process. When educators design activities for their students with thought and intention, they are often elevating the types of thinking that their students are required to do and, in turn, creating more impactful learning experiences, for students to create these experiences themselves is learning at a much higher level.
  • VR Create is a game-changer for students since it allows them to use their ideas and imagination to demonstrate real learning and understanding. Students become owners of learning, architects of content and developers of brave new worlds. 

It is very important not to think about the XR ABC Framework as three levels of mastery where we must reach ‘Create’ and only use that in our instructional practice. Each of the areas has the potential to positively impact instruction when leveraged appropriately. For example, taking students on a virtual field trip (VR – Absorb) can be the perfect experience aligned with your class lesson objectives.

In this example having the students create a fictional world may not be as meaningful. Over time we will find more and more high-quality experiences will become accessible, while they may not be used presently in our instruction, it is very important that we keep an eye on these so that we are ready to use them in the near future.

Through the use of the XR ABC framework we have a common language to describe what is happening with XR in our classrooms. The various areas of interactivity found in XR, both now and in the future, promise to magnify positive instructional experiences. By referring to these experiences as framed in Absorb, Blend, and Create we have a common language to dive deep into harnessing the power of these exciting new technologies in our classrooms.


The XR ABC Framework was developed for educators in order to provide context on how to adopt augmented and virtual reality technologies into teaching and learning experiences. Developed from the voices of experienced educators and from research-based examples, the framework illustrates how XR can be used to improve teaching and learning outcomes while providing us with a common language to guide our growth and meaningful adoption of XR technologies together in education.

Providing educators with this common language and a global understanding of how the adoption of XR shifts the instructional paradigm, we are not only best preparing our learners for the future, but also leveling the playing field for all global learners so that the physical walls, or lack thereof, of schools and instructional institutes are no longer barriers to education. 

The beauty of having a framework available to educators for this type of technology adoption is that it provides them with an opportunity to be thoughtful, intentional, and reflective about the design of instructional experiences for their students. As educators begin to evaluate the effectiveness of using augmented and virtual realities in their instruction, they can have a better understanding of the desired outcomes during the design phase of their lessons based on the aspect of the framework that they fall into.

With time, more accessibility to XR tools, and an increased understanding of how XR learning practices can engage learners in meaningful and purposeful educational experiences, the XR ABC Framework will become the common language that educators use to share and collaborate their delivery of instruction.

Christine Lion-Bailey, Jesse Lubinsky, and Micah Shippee, PhD are co-authors of the upcoming DBC Inc. release “Reality Bytes: Innovative Learning Using Augmented and Virtual Reality.” You can find out more about their work by signing up at Illustrations by Manuel S. Herrera. His work can be found at

Article originally published on
“A Learning Framework For Augmented And Virtual Reality -.” TeachThought. 20 Oct. 2019. Web. 23 Nov. 2019. <>

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