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Deep Dive Series on Immersive Learning. Article Two: Technology Examples In Practice

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In the last article in this series, we explored ways to think about immersive learning. Specifically, the type of experiences we want to create. In this article we’ll dig into the tech a bit more and highlight a few different technologies and their use cases. But first, a quick recap.

Some of the more common immersive learning use cases in higher education include:

  1. Soft skills: Immersive learning can help students practice difficult interpersonal situations in a relatively low-risk environment.
  2. Technical/practical skills: Immersive learning can help students get to grips with the more practical-oriented aspects of a training program.
  3. Scene-setting: Immersive learning can help create a sense of place by immersing students within a geographically and/or culturally specific context. Scene-setting is also particularly useful in bringing fictional worlds to life, as well as bringing students to real places that they would not otherwise be able to visit.

Let’s now apply these use cases to different types of immersive tech experiences: open world, narrative pathway, interactive video, and virtual tours.

Let’s say you want to create a sense of place by immersing students in a geographically and culturally specific context. The context could be a university campus, a neighbourhood, or even rooms within a particular building. So, how can we do this? Let’s consider the different type of technology we could use for each of the following.

Open World

Software like Virbela Frame can help you create a ‘digital twin’ of a space that can be used for online classes, online events, collaboration and presentations. Imagine creating a ‘digital twin’ of a campus building for virtual classes. This type of technology can also be great for exhibitions and ‘walkthroughs’. Think – virtual art exhibitions and the like.  

Caption: Virtual space created with Virbela Frame (Image by Frame via Frame Website)

Narrative Pathway and Interactive Video  

Maybe you want an experience where you provide choices while also creating pathways for users to follow. A tool like Wonda VR helps you stitch together 360-degree videos and 3D images to create unique pathways. Interactive elements include hotspots that, when looked at or touched, trigger different interactions. For example, click on a hotspot and you’re transported to another scene in the pathway.  

From soft skills to learning a language, a technology like Wonda VR can help immerse students in a situation. It’s this physical and emotional immersion that makes the learning stick. This award-winning example from NC State University demonstrates an excellent usage of the technology in the classroom.  

Caption: At Harvard University, Wonda VR was used to give French Language 101 students the ability to experience Parisian life through the eyes of 4 locals in short, intensive first-person experiences (Image by Wonda VR via Wonda VR Website

Virtual Tours 

Tools like Wonda VR can be used with or without HMDs. Remember, physical immersion is great, but it’s the design decisions that will ultimately impact the user experience.

Ever ‘visited’ a house or apartment that you’re interested in renting or buying? Then you’re already familiar with virtual tour technology. COVID-19 has accelerated the use of technologies to create virtual university campus tours.  

Using 3D mapping and 360° filming gives a level of personalisation to the tour that may not even be possible in-person. Interested in residential life and not the sport facilities? No problem. The user chooses what they want to see.  

There are so many software applications to choose from in this category so it’s important to understand your own requirements and choose the technology that best meets them. Micrio is a robust editing platform where you can upload images, add markers to it, create video tours, add spatial audio and music, and then share what you’ve created. Check out this multi-room tour created with Micrio for the Rijksmuseum.  

What does the evidence tell us about the effectiveness of immersive learning in higher education? Well, the answer is, it depends. The evaluation of immersive technologies tends to focus on the usability  and acceptance, and not so much on learning outcomes or pedagogical value. However, this is sure to change with the accelerated use of these technologies during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, what are the key takeaways?  

  1. It’s possible to effectively teach using a variety of technologies but technology that is well-suited to the training task is more useful than technology that is ‘more advanced’  
  1. Factors that have always been important in training, such as the quality of teachers, remain critical for immersive learning 

The range of immersive learning technology has exploded over the past 5 years. While traditionally the focus has been on augmented and virtual reality, often with headsets, the accelerated pace of development has produced a wide range of immersive technology and accompanying experiences, only some of which we have covered here.  

While wading through technology can be overwhelming, always go back to basics. What experience do you want to design? Who do you want to design it for, and why? Once you’ve got these questions answered, the ‘how’ becomes that much easier.  

Elizabeth Jahncke is Senior Learning Strategist at Hubble Studios. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

Get in touch for help with your online education solution.

Article by: Elizabeth Jahncke

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