Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

David Cihak

Committee Members

Sherry Bell, Gary Skolits, Maribeth Coleman


Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that overlays digital information on a live view of the physical world to create a blended experience. AR can provide unique experiences and opportunities to learn and interact with information in the physical world (Craig, 2013). The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate uses of AR on mobile devices to improve the academic and functional skills of students with disabilities.

The first chapter is a literature review providing a clear understanding of AR and its connections with existing learning theories and evidence-based practices that are relevant for meeting the needs of individuals with disabilities. This chapter explores the available research on mobile devices, AR educational applications, and AR research involving students with disabilities.

The purpose of Study 1 was to examine the effects of an augmented reality vocabulary instruction for science terms on college-aged students with ID. A multiple probe across skills design was used to determine if there was a functional relation between the AR vocabulary instruction and the acquisition of correctly defined and labeled science terms. The results indicated that all participants learned new science vocabulary terms using the augmented reality vocabulary instruction.

Study 2 examined the effects of using an AR navigation, Google Maps, and a paper map as navigation aids for four college-aged students with ID enrolled in a PSE program. Using an adapted alternating treatments design, students used the three navigation aids to travel independently to unknown businesses in a large downtown city to seek employment opportunities. During the intervention phase, students used a mobile device with Google maps and the AR application to navigate to unfamiliar businesses. Results from Study 2 indicated all students improved navigation decision making when using AR.

In the final chapter, both studies are discussed in relation to the AR research literature and as potential interventions. Findings from the studies include the capabilities of ARon mobile devices, academic and functional applications of this technology for students with disabilities, implications for mobile learning, and limitations of this technology. Recommendations for future research are presented to further examine using AR for students with disabilities.

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