Immersive Learning Environments (ILEs) have their supporters and objectors. In my experience, success depends on the subject matter and how it is represented for the learner. One example of an ILE is 3D Virtual Worlds (VWs). They are relevant to 21st Century learning in terms of engagement, learning and context. This is just one of the findings from a recently commissioned state of the art report by our researchers at the Learnovate Centre.

Why use Virtual Worlds in the Learning Process?

Potential Benefits
Whether a VW is created for students in a school or for corporate training it offers the same benefits.

Benefits for the Learner

  • Increases learning potential by replicating the authenticity of the real world
  • Enables learners to have more personalised learning experiences and to construct meaning from them

Benefits for the School/Business

  • Mitigates resource constraints (cost, time, manpower, environmental)
  • Overcomes geographical constraints by utilising multiple environments, i.e. with one login a learner can access multiple learning scenarios or engage with learners from around the world in a collaborative process without leaving their computer

Potential Impact on Learning
ILEs allow for more effective processing of information due to the realism of the medium. There are obvious advantages for both businesses and schools in terms of improving training and learning outcomes.

Potential Disadvantages
Some of the downsides of VWs for formal learning to date are their inadequate or inappropriate pedagogical scaffolding and also a lack of assessment infrastructure to monitor and evaluate learning. These are proving to be significant barriers to adoption for many enterprises and educational establishments.

Potential Solution
One of the Learnovate Centre’s current research projects, ILEARN, involves the design of an immersive learning environment to support, scaffold and assess collaborative learning.

ILEARN integrates a bespoke social search and recommender system (from our research partner CLARITY: Centre for Sensor Web Technologies) and a real time data analytics engine (from another of our research partners, TSSG) into a virtual world which is underpinned and driven by a solid pedagogical strategy.

To find out more about the ILEARN project and the technologies deployed or any of our other research projects please contact us.

Steve BentonAbout the Author: Steve Benton is a technology lead at the Learnovate Centre. As well as holding numerous roles in industry, Steve has a number of years teaching experience and has worked as a resource teacher for children with special educational needs.