What is immersive learning, and how can it benefit your school?

John Marsh

John Marsh is the Director of AVonics, a technology company who provide audio, video and lighting solutions for the education sector. First established in 1998, the AVonics team are highly skilled and experienced with the design, supply and installation of immersive teaching spaces and interactive technology in schools across the country, and can help transform an ordinary classroom into an exciting and engaging learning environment.

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Teachers often excel at opening up new worlds for learning all in their pupils’ minds. If they want to go one step further, says AVonics director John Marsh, they can try immersive environments...

The last five years have seen a dramatic change in the way we receive and process information. We rely on the digital world for news, questions and opinions. So why should our teaching environment be any different?

"Some adult educational institutions, such as Glyndwr University, feature an innovative learning dome to project images to create a completely-immersed virtual reality."

In a world where more children play with smartphones than actual toys, it seems inappropriate that there is a large proportion of children sitting in classrooms feeling disconnected from their education, purely due to the dated way it is being taught. A solution needs to be implemented to keep children’s minds engaged.

Could an immersive learning environment be the answer?

As the name suggests, an immersive learning environment allows students to become fully involved in an interactive, digital environment.

Special immersion spaces are created to display graphics all around the room, and to create an even greater effect, children can wear headphones to block out any external noise. Some adult educational institutions, such as Glyndwr University, feature an innovative learning dome to project images to create a completely-immersed virtual reality. Students also have the option to feel as though they are moving around the dome thanks to the use of an omnidirectional treadmill.

However, you don’t have to own state-of-the-art facilities to set up an immersed learning space; you can create a functioning environment in a large area, such as a sports hall, with the use of screens or curtains.

What skills can children learn from immersed learning?

Parents may object to an immersed 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 immersed learning is said to help develop a variety of transferrable skills that are difficult to nurture through traditional forms of learning. The term immersed learning is usually associated with foreign language students, and there have been calls to introduce greater language immersion learning techniques in the UK in order to help youngsters learn a second tongue.

Children often have trouble with critical thinking, problem solving and seeing things from a different point of view. An immersed 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.

How can immersed learning stop distractions?

"As each child is active in the learning process, rather than traditional passive forms of learning, there is barely any opportunity to become distracted."

Many pupils often struggle to focus, if there are background noises or physical distractions in the classroom, their concentration will slip and they will quickly become disengaged.

Immersive spaces present a controlled environment where distractions can be eliminated. As each child is active in the learning process, rather than traditional passive forms of learning, there is barely any opportunity to become distracted. Children also have the opportunity to interact with each other in a constructive way. Instead of idly chatting through lessons, they can learn and develop new skills together in the form of team-building exercises.

How immersed learning can benefit teachers

Pupils are not the only ones who benefit from immersed learning - teachers can also use the new technology to improve their skills and develop their teaching.

There are many different styles of immersed learning programs, some involving more teacher-participation than others. For teachers who are just starting out in their careers, an immersed 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 an immersed learning environment eliminates the need for physical teachers, yet on the contrary, immersed learning enables teachers to connect with their class in a way that wouldn’t be possible through traditional learning processes.

In addition to this, teachers participating in the lessons will be given the chance to progress their own personal skills, such as critical thinking and problem solving, simply by giving them the chance to use certain skills when participating in the lessons.

Have you used immersive environments in your teaching? Share your experiences below.

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