Why Is Immersive Learning So Effective?

February 9th, 2021 Features

Immersive learning is becoming a bigger part of both in-person and online education across the globe. Why is it so effective at improving learning outcomes, beyond the obvious appeal of being virtually transported to another place or time? Research suggests the answer lies in presence, autonomy, and feedback.

What Is Immersive Learning?

Immersive learning is learning that uses artificial intelligence such as virtual or augmented reality to enhance the learning experience. It frequently requires the use of a headset such as Oculus and provides opportunities to explore and interact with a virtual environment. Often there are role-playing and gamification elements to the experience as well. In an educational context, students might navigate 3D models of the Great Barrier Reef or use a real-time simulation to check out the solar system at night.

Why Is Immersive Learning So Effective?

Immersive learning is studied by educational psychologists who are interested in what it might tell us about things like learning, memory, and focus. At the University of Passau in Germany, scientists have developed a research model to test exactly which factors involved in immersive learning contribute to an effective educational experience. Distributing questionnaires to students in a computer science course, they identified presence, or the subject feeling of “being there,” as the most important factor having an effect on learning outcomes. Variables that contributed to the feeling of presence included immersion, emotion, and cognitive abilities. These results suggest that presence itself could be a worthwhile target for educational interventions in any context, virtual or physical.

The Australian Immersive Education Academy also lists presence as one of the core components of an effective immersive learning experience, along with autonomy, realism, and situated feedback about the learning subject. Their definition of presence includes high engagement, multisensory inputs, and a strong emotional connection. The experience should also be highly interactive, learner-directed, and mirror the real world with high fidelity or create an augmented reality. Each of these components contributes to more effective learning in its own way.

What is the Future of Immersive Learning?

Experts are projecting that immersive learning will allow students around the world to engage with each other and occupy the same virtual spaces, exploring each other’s cultures and settings in a way that promotes more diversity, inclusion, and cross-cultural exchange in education. As virtual reality shifts to being run on the cloud instead of high-powered computers, teachers and students alike will be able to collaborate more easily and enjoy faster processing times so that the system interacts with users in real time and videos can be streamed with negligible lag time, allowing for a deeper, more enveloped learning experience. VR is predicted to become a common teaching tool in the near future as well.

As online learning further permeates our lives, there will be a high demand for optimally engaging educational experiences, and immersive learning will be a big part of that transition. It is also slated to become an essential part of employee training, so stay tuned on updates if you’re planning to switch industries or jobs in the near future. What’s more, if you’re a graphic designer looking for new career opportunities, working in the immersive learning field could be a great choice.


Saga Briggs is an author at InformED. You can follow her on Twitter@sagamilena or read more of her writing here.

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