3D Digital Content

Taking learning to a new dimension

Published: 13 December 2012

Digital media technologies such as 3D leverage and magnify our ability to capture the essence of what we are teaching and learning. New media enables us to view the world in new dimensions; it encourages and motivates creativity, imagination and collaboration; and it fosters new ways of teaching and learning. The use and application of new digital media in schools will be seen as an essential part in every teacher’s tool kit. Here I examine the use of 3D stereographic immersive environments within the education sector.

The scale of production of 3D digital education content remains small and this poses a major limitation for the adoption of 3D technologies and content across the education sector. However, the growing affordability of 3D hardware and increased competition within the 3D education publishing market has lead to rapid growth in the size of 3D content libraries.

Increased competition within the 3D education publishing industry has led to a marked improvement in the quality, depth and breadth of 3D content. 3D content has typically focussed on subjects such as biology, chemistry and physics; but the industry has began to diversify its content development programme and schools can now find 3D content covering subjects such as geography, history, physical education and english.

As ever, the challenge for 3D education content publishers is to keep the content relevant, up-to-date, vibrant, interesting and engaging. The industry needs to take advantage of other form factors such as 3D monitors, tablet devices and augmented reality platforms to showcase its 3D content. The industry also needs to ensure that it conforms to common standards that enable 3D content to be shared across all publishing platforms.




Gaia Technologies has developed 3D immersive environments for the education sector. Gaia's 3D immersive environments are designed to enable teachers and students to author, edit and add their own content and learning objects to the 3D immersive environments. For instance, students can author and add their own war poetry or letters to Gaia's WWI Trench environment.

Gaia Technologies has a large and growing 3D content library that supports schools across a number of subjects including geography, history, biology, chemistry, design technology, physics, mathematics, physical education, english, creative arts, citizenship, religious education, modern languages and ICT. The content can be viewed on standard monitors as well as through 3D projection facilities.

The 3D education publishing industry is still very much in its infancy but the growing maturity of 3D content libraries bodes well for the future. Companies such as Gaia Technologies, Amazing Interactives, Designmate and others are paving the way in providing a richer and broader 3D content base for schools across the education sector. A list of 3D education content developers is shown below.

3D education content developers:


The scope for using 3D technologies and 3D content within an education setting is broad. For instance, Museum Solutions have produced an imaginative solution that enables museum visitors to interact with museum artefacts. The solution could enable schools, regardless of location, to develop broader uses of the technology to support teaching and learning. Students could rotate and manipulate 3-dimensional atomic structures in science and they could view historical, cultural and artistic artefacts from around the world. Here is a video showcasing the use of the technology. [1] Other companies such as FusionGFX and See3D specialise in providing tailor made 3D solutions. Their work could benefit educational institutions or organisations wishing to develop bespoke 3D solutions.

Texas Instruments and NEC have compiled a useful set of resources to support and aid schools who are planning to introduce 3D technologies into their classrooms. [2] [3]


Designmate has a large 3D content library for biology, physics and chemistry. The content can be viewed on standard monitors as well as through 3D projection facilities.

Aptus Education is Designmate's re-seller for 3D education content in the UK.

The ability for 3D education content to be displayed in non stereoscopic format on traditional displays such as monitors, interactive whiteboards and tablets enables 3D content development companies to have a much larger market to invest in.

In the near future we are likely to see traditional text book publishers partnering up with 3D content developers. This will enable students to take advantage of 3D content through augmented reality applications. We will also see companies authoring e-books with 3D content models embedded within them.

Studies examining the use and potential merits of 3D content in the education sector are few in number but initial research points favourably for its use to support teaching and learning. Research shows that pupils have a strong preference for visual and kinesthetic learning and for teachers, the use of 3D animated models enabled them to represent information in a more effective manner that enhanced learning and comprehension. [4] Students who used 3D content outperformed those that used 2D content. [5] Further studies have suggested that the use of 3D content can provide a better means for delivering instruction to young learners and it can improve the spatial ability of learners; thereby resulting in higher attainment levels in subjects such as mathematics and science. [6] Smaller studies such as the one conducted by Colorado's Boulder Valley School District highlight improved student engagement and greater student understanding of abstract concepts. [7] Perhaps we need to remember that good teaching and the resources that are used by teachers should always seek to engage and inspire learners. Anictodal evidence from teachers and students suggests that 3D content has a valuable role to play in the education setting.

What are the benefits of using 3D in the classroom?

  • Enables teachers to improve the delivery of spatial concepts and ideas
  • Improves the spatial ability of learners
  • Enables improved student engagement and interaction in the classroom
  • Improves learning for visual and kinesthetic learners
  • Improved student performance in formal assessments
  • Encourgaes greater communication and dialogue between students and teachers
  • Enhanced learning and comprehension
  • Improved learner retention
  • Supports digital story telling

The adoption of 3D enabled technology across the education sector will provide opportunities for many schools to offer a broader curriculum base for the communities that they serve. There is no doubt that 3D technology and content will excite and engage students. It has the potential to redefine how we engage, share and demonstrate complex subject matter with our students; and it has the potential to open doors to various industries such as film, gaming and e-publishing.



  1. Museum Solutions: http://museumsolution.com. The video can be found on YouTube at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WOLpKzfR1aY
  2. Texas Instruments: http://www.dlp.com/projector/dlp-innovations/3d-projectors/3d-projectors.aspx
  3. NEC: http://www.nec-display-solutions.com/p/w3d/en/home.xhtml
  4. The 3D in Education White Paper by Dr Anne Bamford
  5. The effectiveness and user perception of 3-dimensional digital human anatomy in an online undergraduate anatomy laboratory by Amy JoAnne Hilbelink, University of South Florida. This study highlights some adverse affects of watching 3D such as headaches, eye strain and dizziness. However, the American Optometric Association (AOA) has produced a report and video that hopes to reassure pupils, teachers and parents about viewing 3D content.
  6. On the development and measurement of spatial ability by H. Bayram Yilmaz. International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education Vol.1, Issue 2, March, 2009: http://www.iejee.com/1_2_2009/yilmaz.pdf
  7. Boulder Valley School District 3D pilot case study: http://www.dlp.com/projector/case-studies/default.aspx?id=CS9830