Decades of behavioural research has helped humans understand how learners learn. And, in recent years, extended reality (VR & AR) has expanded exponentially, on course for global impact. The data generated from student behaviour in the 3D world will allow a more thorough exploration on how we process information, learn and explore the teaching environments. What are the immersive superpowers we can apply to education and how can we harness immersive technology to open new dimensions in the way we teach and learn?

Virtual reality offers a seductive interplay of technology and human perception, but after the emergence of initial VR systems in the 1980s and 1990s, VR faded into the background – largely due to limitations in core technology and prohibitive costs.

As these barriers have lifted, and immersive user experience has improved, industrial, professional, and entertainment uptake of VR has increased. This has helped realise the huge potential of immersive visualisation.

Now it is education’s turn.

Digital technology has shaped the evolution of education for decades. The early 2000s saw an introduction of networked computers for collaborative learning, which soon moved to online digital learning, which has boomed in recent years via platforms like Coursera and Udemy. Early research in military and aviation has proven that simulation and practise-based training in VR is highly effective. The education sector is now in the process of adapting this pathfinder knowledge and application of visual immersion to modern teaching environments, creating new learner-centred approaches, and seeking paradigm-shifting changes in teaching success.

Immersive learning has already proven to offer a powerful alignment of learner engagement and knowledge retention. However, its true potential lies in personalisation of learning, which promises to supercharge current educational standards and learning delivery.

The move towards active learner engagement pedagogies is driven by the knowledge that active engagement offers significant benefits over passive observation, forming new experience-based learning methodologies for students. The application of technology in education has mostly focused on making information more accessible and interactive. But VR takes this much further, enhancing learning experiences by innovative, more naturalistic presentation of the information and reduction of learner’s cognitive load. Teaching therefore must adapt to this changing medium and move from abstract and 2D to practical and 3D pedagogical frameworks.

And the next generation of learners expect it.

Gen Z are digital natives. They hold a universe of content in their hands with an endless textbook of knowledge at their fingertips, delivered through user-friendly devices and seamlessly integrated with their everyday lives. They desire personalised experiences… including when and how they learn. They are also skills-focused, self-sufficient, creative, tenacious individuals with a focus on fast pace advancement and sustainability.

How can immersive technology create new learning experiences for this new, hyper-connected student?

Platforms such as Edify integrate accumulative knowledge on immersive learning. It uses virtual reality and video conferencing to enable accessible, immersive and engaging educational experiences. Educators can demonstrate concepts in virtual laboratories and spaces which are normally challenging to access. New intakes of medical students, for example, will struggle in the standard ‘post-Covid19’ teaching. Edify provides 3D immersive anatomical and physiological environments where students can learn without limits. Over time, this Edify library of experiences will grow to cover all disciplines and allow for much richer, more collaborative digital learning experiences.

The next generation of immersive learning will be based on the current pedagogical research and will also contribute to further understanding on how new concepts are integrated. Recent reviews of immersive VR and learning illustrate the palpable lack of large, fine-grained data sets in research; necessitating multiple, time-consuming, modes of data collection to increase the validity and reliability of results. Edify will allow such exploration of fine-grained learners’ behaviour. Every interaction, gesture and movement can be recorded, delivering massive, unique, and extraordinary detailed new pools of data.

The potential here is immense and will drive cutting-edge research to deliver the future of personalised immersive learning – a learning future that will be expected by tomorrow’s students.

You might also be interested in watching…

In August 2020 we held two webinars to explore the potential of immersive technologies across the education sector. These include:

The Future of XR in Education.

Our expert panel; Martin McDonnell (Soluis and Sublime), Pippa Bostock (University of Portsmouth), Alison Watson (Class Of Your Own) and Alex Gibson (Technological University Dublin) discuss how immersive tech can be used in teaching at various levels, as well as the challenges of integrating XR skills training in higher education. Watch here

How to Scope Immersive Apps for Education

Dr Neil McDonnell, the Lord Kelvin Adam Smith Fellow for Augmented and Virtual Reality at the University of Glasgow and Martin McDonnell from Soluis and Sublime, share more about the development of Sublime’s new Innovate UK-funded XR education platform, Edify, which uses immersive technology and analytics to transform education.  Watch here

About Edify

Edify is a virtual reality and video conferencing platform to enable accessible, immersive and engaging educational experiences. To celebrate the launch of edify, Sublime are offering academics the opportunity to co-create and build a limited number of fully funded virtual educational experiences for their University, academic year 20/21. Register your interest

This article was written by:

Sarune Savickaite Data Scientist, Edify / Sublime and PhD candidate in VR applications in Psychology, The University of Glasgow. Read more on her research


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