The global pandemic of 2020 caused a paradigm shift in engineering education. In a matter of weeks, and sometimes days, faculty members across the world had to move their hands-on engineering courses to an online environment. During this shift, educators relied on technology more so than ever to improve student design learning without an empirically understanding of the impact of this shift on students' cognition and understanding. The current study was developed to determine the cognitive underpinnings of such shifts by exploring the impact of Augmented Reality (AR) and animation impact engineering student learning, cognitive load, and recall during a virtual product dissection educational activity. This was achieved through a full factorial experiment with 117 first-year engineering students where students were divided into one of four conditions: baseline of virtual dissection; virtual dissection + animation, AR dissection, and AR dissection + animation. The results of the study show that students in the virtual dissection + animation showed an increased understanding of the product over the three other conditions. In addition, participant cognitive load and recall in the AR condition were not significantly different than in a non-AR virtual environment. The results are used to provide recommendations on how technology can be utilized in a virtual classroom environment, providing crucial insight into the steps needed to virtualize engineering education during the pandemic as well as future steps toward possible education reform.