Designing for Immersion: Mindful of Cognition, Motivation, and Imagination

Designing for Immersion: Mindful of Cognition, Motivation, and Imagination

Eileen O'Connor, Jelia Domingo
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3250-8.ch002
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Although immersive realities are not new, new applications, more available development tools, and expanding frontiers require educators to better understand how to design in these areas. This chapter develops a guiding pathway for exploration and development within a very broadly defined field of technology and of study. It establishes the range of variables that need to be considered and elucidates a systematic, applied, yet unfettered way for discovering the new potential. With scenarios, immersions, interactions and role-playing, shared and solo experiences now possible, imagination and creativity can move designs well beyond present text, image, and video limitations by using elements of gaming, storytelling, and conversation. Envisioning and designing for these environments is challenging; audience integration, assessment, and evaluation will be required throughout. However, since learning can reach beyond past boundaries, educators must use persistence when they move into these new realms, documenting and sharing their experiences, stumbles-along-the-way, and victories.
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Although pundits (Slater & Sanchez-Vives, 2016) chart the past 50 year history of emerging virtual technologies, for the past two decades of virtual reality (VR) and most recently augmented reality (AR), much of the growth has come from the entertainment and social fields — for example, World of Warcraft, Fortnite, and Facebook’s Spark AR. The perception that VR and AR environments are best for games and recreation has served to place them outside of the realm of what many educators would conceptualize as learning environments. However, slowly but surely, pioneers have begun appropriating AR / VR environments for use in education. During the 1990’s, Harvard's River City immersive 18th-century factory town scenario was developed, utilized, and studied through publications such as Dede’s in 2004. Numerous application specific education studies are found throughout the education literature such as O’Connor (2018) in facilitating teacher education, Siahos, Georgopoulos, Papanagiotou, Tsamis, & Niloltsios (2014) in interior design, and Hermanns & Kilmon (2012) in nursing. With the recent inroads into accessible consumer-oriented Augmented Reality (Merge Cube), versions of these tools are beginning to make their way into academia and K12 arenas. Merge Cube has a fledgling education version and Mel science is launching AR / VR science applications for K12 classrooms (VR / AR science applications). Google has developed over 360 camera expeditions and three-dimensional (3d) object database repositories.

Despite the growing use of AR / VR environments as educational platforms, there are still many educators at all levels who remain uncomfortable with the use of these environments as educational platforms. A primary reason for this is that mainstream educators in non-technical fields tend to be somewhat risk averse and lack the technological expertise that would make them comfortable appropriating new technologies into their teaching repertoires (Nicolle & Lou, 2008). Another important reason for not adopting AR / VR as learning environments is that these spaces often have to be customized for specific educational uses. Svihla, Reeve, Sagy, and Kali (2015) have noted that teachers do not generally see themselves as “designers of learning experiences” (p. 284) which is precisely the stance necessary for approaching AR/VR platforms as learning environments. Thus, both the level of comfort of educators as well as a shift towards seeing themselves as designers of learning environments and experiences are necessary to help more individuals begin capitalizing on this new learning scape. Thus, the purpose of this chapter is twofold. The first is to make the case that incorporating AR/VR environments into the learning experience is not a gimmick. Rather it is a worthwhile tool for engaging the cognitive faculties of learners. The second purpose is to provide processes and strategies for designing and utilizing AR /VR environments for educational purposes for educators who are not well versed in the technology and desire a path forward into using these valuable learning tools.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Assessment and Evaluation: Assessment examines whether the participant gained the desired understanding; evaluation, as defined here, refers to the functional examination of the larger learning and logistical environment.

Storytelling and Narration: The casting of activities and events within the framework of a cohesive and meaningful experience reflective of already understood schema.

Resistance to Innovation: A well-documented phenomenon where innovation is received with skepticism, resistance, and, at times, outright hostility; as needed, educators and researchers must provide solid evidence of the value of new approaches to defuse a negative system response to innovation.

Game-Based Learning/Gamification: A curriculum or event designed within the framework of competition, challenge, collaboration or engagement that allows achieving and accomplishing an elusive or challenging goal.

Curriculum Design: The process of developing a scope and sequence for activities so they can move towards a predefined learning goal.

Ideation Exercises: Mental and social creative experiences that encourage the designer(s) to move beyond present boundaries of thinking.

Immersive Experiences: Technology mediated experiences that represents the world or concepts through visual, 3-D, haptic, holographic and/or sensory sensations that enables the participant to believe that he or she are actually experiencing a phenomenon that does not exist within the immediate physical reality.

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