Education Technology

What is Immersive Learning and how can it be used in schools?

Vinay Singh
What is Immersive Learning  and how can it be used in schools?

What is Immersive Learning?

I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.

Confucius

Immersive Learning is the process of learning with the usage of a simulated or artificial environment. The environment enables the learners to completely get immersed in the learning and in a way that feels like experiencing an actual learning environment. According to a study at Harvard, it’s all about creating identifiable stories. Learning is at its most effective when the student can see himself in the narrative or situation that’s taking place.

In an immersive learning experience, a student can receive individualized instruction as he/she progresses according to their own pace and through simulation. This can be created in simulation as well as in the virtual world environment.

There are different ways to implement Immersive Learning techniques in any classroom such as learning through virtual reality, role play, simulations, augmented reality and mixed reality. Gamification, AR, VR and MR technologies allow the creation of powerful learning experiences while focusing on generating total interest, attracting learners’ full attention and motivation, along with facilitating a safe trial and error setting.

Technologies used for Immersive Learning

Virtual Reality (VR)

Virtual Reality (VR) is a computer-generated scenario that simulates a realistic experience. The immersive environment can be similar to the real world in order to create a lifelike experience grounded in reality or sci-fi. Current VR technology most commonly uses virtual reality headsets or multi-projected environments, sometimes in combination with physical environments or props, to generate realistic images, sounds and other sensations that simulate a user's physical presence in a virtual or imaginary environment. Google Expeditions which use a Cardboard viewer and a VR ready mobile, allows students to take field trips right from their classroom. The teacher can guide the learning experience and lead classroom-sized groups of “explorers” through collections of 360° and 3D images while pointing out interesting sights along the way.

Augmented Reality (AR)

Augmented Reality turns the environment around you into a digital interface by placing virtual objects in the real world, in real-time. The best example of Augmented Reality to-date is Pokémon Go, a game which allows users to catch virtual Pokémon who are hidden throughout a map of the real world.

Mixed Reality (MR)

Mixed Reality (sometimes called Hybrid Reality or MR) combines the best aspects of both virtual reality and augmented reality. It also refers to the entire spectrum of situations that span the continuum between virtual reality and actual reality. Mixed reality can include augmented reality, augmented virtuality, and other mixed configurations.

In mixed reality environments, users navigate through both the real and virtual environments at the same time. Instead of residing in an entirely virtual world (as in virtual reality), virtual objects are anchored into a user’s real-world space and augment their real-world environment, making virtual interactions appear to be “real”.

Following are a few applications of MR in learning:

Japan Airlines uses HoloLens Mixed Reality to train new pilots, giving them a realistic feel of handling holographic jet engines.

To find ways to engage with students in the classroom, a set of interns at Moment, a New York based design consultancy conducted interviews, researched new technologies and different teaching methods. The result was Peer - a Mixed Reality platform that uses a combination of physical and digital elements that engage students by making abstract concepts and complex forces visible and tangible.

HoloLens for Education is a project by Leiden University and the Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) that explores the possibilities of using the Microsoft HoloLens within higher (medical) education.

Gamification

Gamification is using a layer of game over a real-life environment. It is the concept of applying game mechanics and game design techniques to engage and motivate students to achieve their goals.

According to Albert Einstein, games are the most elevated form of investigation. Games have many elements that make them powerful vehicles for human learning. Many games promote communication, cooperation, and even competition amongst players.

Here are some great examples of gamification in education:

Brainscape

Brainscape is a mobile and web-based education platform designed to help students study smart using adaptive algorithms to create flashcards, whose presentation pattern can change in response to what students know and what they seem to be struggling with, focusing attention on the more difficult topics.

Duolingo

As of November 2016, the language-learning website and app offer 68 different language courses across 23 languages, with 22 additional courses in development. The app has about 200 million registered users across the world. Duolingo is designed to feel like a game. In 2016, Duolingo created Tinycards, a refreshing new take on flashcards.

The World Peace Game

This game-based political simulation for the classroom invites young students to explore a simulated world not unlike our own, consisting of four or five prominent nations. Each country is directed by student teams, encouraging the kids to explore the global community and learn the nature of the complex relationships between nations.

What educators say…

While teaching, educators must be conscious of their environment. Classes consist of multiple students, all with different learning styles that must be considered before beginning a lesson. We spoke to educators about new immersive technologies which can be applied to education, looking for them to tell us how and what uses they foresee for this emerging learning format.

Sanjay Datta, Principal, Maharana Mewar Public School, Udaipur

According to Sanjay Datta, Principal, Maharana Mewar Public School, Udaipur, “Students and teachers need to be up to date of how technology is disrupting industries every day and changing future careers along the way. There are four main types of learners: auditory, visual, reading/writing, and kinaesthetic. Most of us are a mixture of these. Immersive Learning provides students an environment where the focus is on learning activities that are long-term, interdisciplinary and student-centered; organising their own work and managing their own time in an immersed environment.”

R Karthik Naidu, Founder & Director, White Petals School, Bengaluru

R Karthik Naidu, Founder & Director, White Petals School, Bengaluru says, “There is a quote by Albert Einstein - ‘Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.’ In this context the main purpose of education in this generation is not to remember the facts but to train our mind to think and analyse. Immersive Learning plays a huge role as it gives the edge of learning through a virtual reality where the students can see beyond their assumptions right in front of their eyes. This is a powerful medium which will leave a huge impact in the minds of the future leaders.”

“Another key aspect of Immersive Learning is that the experiences can be made stimulating and fun. Finding ways to immerse leaners in a physical experience that represents even the most theoretical subject matter proves immersive and enjoyable, driving trainees to take charge of their own learning. Participation learning makes the process interactive, fun, and as a result, more memorable. Any job that’s potentially dangerous will greatly benefit in training that includes VR/ AR/ MR”, adds Datta.

Naidu sees updating of knowledge as the single most important impact of Immersive Learning for educators, students and schools. He says, “Updating ourselves is the key to success in any field, specially updating in education industry by using Immersive Learning will be the next big thing for the educators and schools. When the educators and schools join hands together in making the students understand and learn concepts through Immersive Learning, then it is like leaving a trademark in the minds of the students about a concept, it’s hard for them to forget as they will experience it happen in front of their eyes. Our students will understand a topic through virtual reality in comparison to their assumptions.”

A word of caution and role of teachers in facilitating Immersive Learning:

Parents may object to an immersive learning facility as a reliable form of teaching, because they perceive it as playing in a fantasy game. This is far from the truth, as Immersive Learning is said to help develop a variety of transferrable skills that are difficult to nurture through traditional forms of learning.

Children often have trouble with critical thinking, problem solving and seeing things from a different point of view. An immersive learning environment enables children to participate in complex situations where they will need to empathise with others. Missions, puzzle solving, and strategy development are just some of the many ways that the software can challenge and engage young minds all from the safety of the classroom.

We learn by making mistakes, but often these mistakes come with negative consequences. A virtual learning environment affords children the freedom to make their own decisions and learn from their own failures, yet at the same time protecting them from danger by keeping them in a controlled situation.

Students are not the only ones who benefit from Immersive Learning - teachers can also use the new technology to improve their skills and develop their teaching. For teachers who are just starting out in their careers, an Immersive Learning environment can be used as a supplement to lessons, helping newer teachers to develop their teaching skills in an environment that will still be educationally efficient for the children involved.

Some may worry that Immersive Learning eliminates the need for physical teachers, yet on the contrary, Immersive Learning enables teachers to connect with their class in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional learning processes.

Issues and questions about the viability of using virtual worlds and immersive environments in the classroom cannot override the potential learning benefits of immersive environments. Immersive Learning has been proven to be optimised for how the brain learns. It is not a replacement for existing methodologies and pedagogy; however, it will enrich learners’ experience and increase efficiency of classrooms.

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