Each of us has a preferred learning style that helps us excel in our learning experiences. When we are given the chance to learn based on our preferred style, we are given the tools to excel.
However, in the real world, we don’t always have the ability to engage all diverse types of learners in every classroom. So, when learning pathways are limited, that is, delivered through limited streams with little to no additional aids, it can create barriers for learners who are forced to operate outside their strengths.
While it’s important for learners to develop flexibility and adaptability so they can tackle problems outside their abilities, it becomes a problem when learners must operate from their weaknesses more than their strengths. To ensure learners are functioning at their highest level, it’s important for academic institutions to evolve more accessible learning pathways.
Today, Lethbridge College’s School of Design Tech is using immersive technology to create immersive learning that brings new learning styles into the classroom to better serve all our learners.
Immersive technology is the merging of the physical world with a digital or simulated reality, creating a vivid and enthralling experience for users.
The two main types of immersive technology are virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR).
The more immersive experience of the two, users physically shut out the existing world using a headset. Here, they are “transported” into a variety of real-world (such as a classroom or historical site/experience) or imagined environments (such as a fantasy world).
The more ‘freeing’ of the two, as no senses are completely blocked out with a headset, users “alter” the world around them. Typically, this is achieved using a smartphone camera where, depending on the program, digital elements are added to or “improve” the world (such as social media or video meeting filters).
In short, VR replaces reality with a virtual world whereas AR enhances the real world with virtual elements.
Beyond captivating or novel experiences, immersive technology is enhancing classroom teaching to include a web of new learning pathways and complement a greater number of learning styles in the process.
- Sharpens real-life knowledge and skills: Because immersive tech can simulate a variety of real-life scenarios, learners can develop specific hands-on skills and training in low-risk settings
- Promotes greater learning and memory aids: Immersive mediums can help learners grasp more abstract concepts through fun and interactive sequences. They can also help learners recall material easier
- Fosters personal initiative: Because immersive tech can feel like a very personal experience, it can encourage learners to take ownership of their learning and push them to do better
- Sparks creativity: Learners have the digital world at their fingertips in an immersive setting, and so, this free reign can spur on exploration and creativity in the setting – whether creating an out-of-this-world avatar or building entirely new worlds and environments!
- Access to support: Learners can connect virtually, to encourage and support each other—which has been especially helpful amidst the pandemic
- Encourages connection: Even remotely, around the world and right here at home, learners can experience new and familiar physical spaces on campus “together”!
- Enhances current learning systems: Hyflex, synchronous and asynchronous learning systems can also be augmented with immersive tech, which can evolve the current learning experience and expand to include a greater number of learning styles
- Sustainable and innovative: Immersive technology is in a constant state of evolution, advance and innovation—that means it is part of a vital future, academic and otherwise
From education and agriculture to healthcare, fitness and fashion, the college’s VXR program is evolving more accessible learning pathways for a variety of programming.
It’s dissolving learning barriers and expanding pathways for learners to experience new (and improved!) worlds—and encouraging interaction with these environments in innovative ways.
These developments are rooted in the college’s efforts to remain an academic institution that provides the most accessible learning experiences for every student who walks through– virtually or otherwise–its doors.
It’s a key part of staying innovative, of staying at the forefront of technology—of evolutionary learning.
For more on this fascinating field, take a listen to Cherie Bowker on the LITL Podcast in the episode: How Immersive Technology is Creating More Flexible and Accessible Learning Experiences.
Chair of the School of Spatial Design Technologies