Immersive Learning: Engaging Learners through Virtual Worlds
In today’s technology-driven world, distractions are ubiquitous. These distractions often have a negative impact on the learning process. The question then becomes: how do we minimise these distractions and make learning more effective? Immersive learning may be the answer.
Immersive learning uses technology such as virtual reality to simulate real-world scenarios, making it possible to teach learners in a safe and engaging environment. Immersive learning not only reduces distractions but also enlivens the learning journey through stimulating visualisations.
Immersive learning experiences are a type of educational experience that can be used to augment traditional lectures, classrooms, and workplace learning programmes. Immersive learning is meant to mimic real life by providing learners with a virtual environment that is as close to the real world as possible. Immersive environments are created with artificial stimuli such as sounds and images that make users feel present in the virtual world.
Immersive learning is designed for learners who are interested in hands-on experiences, problem-solving, and discovery over methods such as reading textbooks and listening to lectures. It has the power to bring abstract learning scenarios to life, thus making real the important but challenging task of recreating interactions for learners. As well as improving engagement levels, it also boosts learners’ motivation as they get to oversee the virtual world they’re a part of. Immersive learning can create physical environments that cannot be replicated in the classroom; this leaves a powerful impression on learners.
Immersive learning can cover a wide range of topics: it can teach learners how to operate a bulldozer and other heavy machinery, resolve office conflicts, and fly airplanes in flight simulators.
Immersive learning might be easily confused with experiential learning (the process of learning through “hands on” experience), but the two are different:
Immersive learning can be implemented through the following technologies:
Virtual reality (VR) is a computer-generated environment with scenes and objects that appear to be real, making the user feel they are immersed in their surroundings. This environment is perceived through a device known as a VR headset or helmet.
Augmented reality (AR) is a technology that superimposes a computer-generated image on a user’s view of the real world, thus providing a composite view. It augments real-world surroundings into a user’s device and enhances reality by incorporating digital features.
Mixed reality (MR) is a combination of VR and AR. A medium consisting of immersive computer-generated environments in which elements of a physical and virtual environment are combined. MR lets digital and physical objects co-exist and interact in real-time.
3D immersive learning is a technique that promotes in-depth learning and makes use of 3D visualisations and simulations to provide an immersive experience to users.
There are several benefits to immersive learning.
Better knowledge retention: Since there are few to zero distractions in an immersive learning experience, learners are more deeply involved in the process and can learn at their own pace, information is usually better retained than when learning with traditional methods. VR has a learning retention of 75%, While lectures have learning retention of just 5%, and reading has learning retention of 10%.
Increased motivation: Immersive learning experiences can make learning more enjoyable; information is delivered in unique and exciting ways. According to a 2019 study, this type of information delivery creates positive experiences among learners that lead to higher motivation and willingness to participate in educational activities.
Distraction-free world: Immersive learning makes it easier for learners to tune out external distractions. Interesting scenarios are usually fun and motivational for the learner, so it’s easier for the mind to focus on the task at hand.
Emotional connections: The environments created in immersive learning are engaging and realistic, a deep emotional connection can be created with the user. They are therefore more involved in the learning process.
Safe environments: Immersive learning creates a safe and stable environment for all types of activities, especially those involving risk. Learners can perform various activities in a virtual world – from operating heavy machinery in a mine to conducting chemical experiments – without any danger to themselves.
Immersive learning is being utilised in various innovative ways in the world today. For example, virtual field trips transcend location, safety and budget constraints and open a whole new world of learning opportunities by helping learners comprehend complex topics. Also, immersive learning can be used to teach vocational and life skills such as welding, nursing, cooking, drone piloting, and many other topics. Topics such as astronomy and history can be brought to life through AR and VR by plugging in virtual environments such as space or ancient cities.
However, immersive learning can be prohibitively expensive for organisations and schools to adopt and implement. The initial investment in equipment and the need to keep the hardware and software up to date can cost millions. There is a major digital divide between the haves and have nots. It’s feasible for larger organisations and more affluent schools to make us of VR and AR in their learning, but it is beyond the reach of small businesses and poorer schools.
Another disadvantage is that some people can experience physical side effects when using AR or VR. Common symptoms include headaches, nausea, and eyestrain. This can be mitigated by keeping immersive learning sessions to an optimal 20 minutes at a time.
Immersive learning is a great way for learners of all ages and experience levels to acquire new skills. It is a dynamic strategy that can enhance e-learning and revolutionise the world of education. Immersive technologies are becoming more commonplace due to technological advancements such as cheaper VR equipment and improved AR mobile technology. This allows teachers to better harness the power of immersive learning and enables learners to study without boundaries in limitless virtual environments.
Written by Rob Ewart