What is Immersive Learning?
When you hear the term immersive learning your first thought will most probably be toward a simulated experience using virtual and augmented reality because that is what is most publicised and discussed. However, it doesn’t have to be. Fundamentally, immersive learning is ‘digital storytelling’ that allows learners to drive the narrative. This can therefore be anything where the learner is provided with learning content in a simulated environment, with a view to offering a “real” experience that enables them to become fully immersed in the learning scenario. Immersions can range from simple scenarios to complex virtual reality models - there isn’t only one technique or deliverable that qualifies as ‘immersive’. How you choose to deliver immersive learning is therefore very much open to interpretation, as well as being dependent on your content authoring skill, time and budget.
Why choose immersive learning
It is often quoted, even as far back as Aristotle, that people learn better by doing. By immersing the learner in a scenario, they feel involved, are asked to make decisions, and are therefore more likely to remember that experience with the overall aim of achieving the desired learning objectives.
How to introduce immersive learning
Essentially, immersive learning is about embedding the learner in a scenario and that scenario can be represented in any number of ways using different techniques and technologies, from simple to complex.
Start by considering the overall purpose of the learning. It might be to ensure compliance, for example. This type of content can be very dry, particularly if it refers to quite complex legislation. To help support learner understanding, you could provide them with a scenario of how this legislation is applicable and relevant to them. The narrative must be believable so the learner can empathise with the situation and put themselves in their shoes. It’s also useful to be able to tweak and change that narrative depending on the circumstance, for example representing a different person within or outside of the organisation.
In addition to the scenario itself, you can supplement each of the different stages with a link to additional resources, to support the learner in making the right choices as they are working their way through the scenario itself.
At the end of the scenario you can provide them with feedback on how well they have understood the learning and if they haven’t chosen the best path, the impact of their choices, including a link back to further information on the subject.
To demonstrate this, I would like to show you four examples of a corporate Diversity course which have all been created using the eLearning authoring tool, dominKnow | ONE. These examples incorporate varying levels of immersion, beginning at a basic course.
At a very basic level we have a compliance eLearning course covering equality and diversity in the workplace. I would not classify this as immersive but it’s probably quite common for delivering compliance content. There are some interactions such as flip cards and carousels to make the designer feel like they are creating an engaging experience, which isn’t the case. The purpose meets an organisational goal in terms of the content that it is delivering to employees, but the learner would not become immersed in this learning.
To make this equality and diversity course immersive we could look to present the learner with scenarios. So, in this example we have designed some scenarios so that the learner can begin to immerse themselves in the situation, but these are still presented in a very basic way. There are no images, but the copy is written in a way that grabs attention and puts the learner in a position where they must make decisions that have consequences. It is important to have a narrative that is believable in order that the learner can relate to it. It is still very basic and doesn’t require a large investment in graphic design and can easily be created in-house.
Finally, in this last example we take the scenarios a step further and use animation to make the story more immersive. This can make the learning more effective than simply using text, like we have in the second example, but it also adds more cost. It is important to weigh up the benefits against the cost.
The fundamental element of immersive learning is that it enables the learner to become absorbed in the subject, providing an environment where they can experience a scenario without having to be there. Grasping the learner’s attention is relatively easy, keeping their attention whilst providing the best possible learning outcome however, can prove more of a challenge. Grabbing and keeping someone’s attention doesn’t have to be as resource intensive as you think. When was the last time that you bought a fiction book that had anything other than text in it?