Thanks to the wisdom imparted by ancient Greek philosophers, we have pondered on reasons for existence, researched the intricacies of our bodies, and debated all matters of love and war. Through the lyceum, the likes of Socrates and Aristotle dedicated themselves to unraveling the mysteries of creation. Aristotle had a particular affinity to the acquisition of knowledge, arguing that it is acquired through experience. Finally, 2300 years later, epistemological research is proving him right!
Some say we learn differently in the digital age – this is false! People have always learned the same way; the difference is that we now have more mediums we can use to acquire knowledge. Immersive learning environments offer learners virtual environments that reflect their job setting, where they can experience how they would act or behave in the real-world. If we were to poll trainers on whether training in the practice setting matters, the answer would be a resounding yes. The reality however is that most training occurs in a learning context removed from the real-life environment. This leaves the onus on the learner to make the leap between the learning context and the application setting. As a result, the knowledge is often lost in translation (or assimilation)!
In reference to Kirkpatrick’s model of summative evaluation, we often focus on level 2 evaluation to ensure learning objectives are met, with little emphasis on level 3 – transfer of learned behaviors to the job. We also know that learning is a 4-step process of watching, thinking (mind), feeling (emotion) and doing, as per Kolb’s research on experiential learning published in the book Experiential learning -Experience as the source of learning and development. Why then do we continue to develop training programs that focus on training outcomes that distance the learner from their environment?
According to a recent report by the eLearning Guild entitled Immersive Learning Simulations, 93% of members reported that immersive learning environments are somewhat or much better than any other form of rich-skill practice. I agree, and would go as far to say that the experience will determine the level of transfer. Here’s why:
- 3D representation of immersive environments is how we naturally encounter the world, and facilitates assimilation and recall. It appeals to our multiple senses, and connects us to the training cognitively, emotionally, and physically.
- Contextualization moves the learner from comprehension of the material to direct application in a real-life situation. As Tony O’Driscoll stated in his book called Learning in 3D, “it allows the learner to more effectively encode the learning for future recall and provides the cues needed to apply the experience.” Immersions are built around action rather than reaction!
- Meaningful environments also create meaningful and lasting learning because it allows the learner to make the connection between the theoretical and practical aspects of the training from their personal and unique understanding.
- Freedom of learning is provided as the learner moves through the immersive environment at their own pace, observing, experiencing, and doing what they want. The self-directed tendency allows the learner to live the experience rather than be a passive observer.
Immersive environments offer great potential to design educational experiences that are highly interactive, engaging, and impactful. The difference in learner attention and retention in comparison to that of traditional online learning warrants the initial investment. The fact remains that budget are limited and we need to maximize our training dollar. Therefore, I will explore the considerations in developing immersive environments in my next entry.