Learning With Immersive Technology: A Cognitive Perspective

Learning With Immersive Technology: A Cognitive Perspective

Robert Z. Zheng (The University of Utah, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3250-8.ch001


The current chapter focuses on the cognitive process relating to immersive technology in learning. By reviewing the cognitive theories in human architecture, the author argues that learners' learning can be significantly improved with technologies that promote deep processing through sensory immersive experience like virtual reality. Discussion of the features of immersive technologies is made in relation to human cognitive processing. Suggestions for future research and application of immersive technology in education are included to help educators and professionals to better integrate immersive technology in teaching and training.
Chapter Preview


Emerging immersive technologies (e.g., virtual reality, artificial intelligence, augmented reality, 3D games, etc.) are increasingly projecting its presence in education acting as a potentially transformative tool to change the landscape in teaching and learning (Cooper, Park, Nasr, Thong, & Johnson, 2019). As Cooper et al. noted, immersive technology enables learners to actively engage in high-fidelity environments where they “interact with virtual objects with their hands, dynamically changing views and position within the virtual world through head and body movements” (p.2). The learning experience derived from the immersive technology is significantly different from traditional computing environment as represented by clicking, pointing, typing, etc. Jensen and Konradsen (2018) review the use of virtual reality in education and identify cognitive and affective benefits associated with digital immersive learning where improvements are found in visual observation, psychomotor skills, and emotional control. However, they also point out that immersive technology may have no advantage compared to less immersive technology or even counterproductive due to technology challenges, task distraction, and cognitive overload. It is evident that immersive technology as an emerging new tool is not without limitations. Understanding the functional role of immersive technology in relation to human cognitive and affective performances can help researchers, educators, and professional practitioners to better design immersive technology for teaching and learning.

The primary goal of the chapter aims to explore the cognitive function of immersive technology by examining at the conceptual level the relationship between immersive technology and human cognitive processes. It starts with a review of human cognitive architecture and its relation to information processing, particularly by focusing on various memory processes in terms of information encoding and decoding. The review of cognitive architecture is followed by the discussion of visual learning theories: Dual Coding Theory (DCT) and Cognitive Theory of Multimedia Learning (CTML), both explicate the underlying cognitive functioning of visual processing in learning and are therefore pertinent to immersive technology, which is the focus of the chapter. The second goal of the chapter is to understand the relationship between cognitive learning activities and the function of immersive technologies. Examples of immersive technology are provided to show how they function differently at the levels of active, interactive and constructive learning. By reading the chapter, the readers will be able to:

  • Understand human cognitive architecture and its relation to cognitive information process

  • Identify the characteristics of immersive technology in learning

  • Be aware of the design issues pertinent to the use of immersive technology in education

Key Terms in this Chapter

Long-Term Memory: Long-term memory differs from short-term memory or working memory in terms of capacity, duration and structure. Cognitive scientists believe long-term memory has a very large capacity. It can continuously store information and be retrieved later throughout our lifetime. Since long-term memory can last throughout our lifetime, it is believed to have long duration as well. Long-term memory is known for its almost infinite semantic network – a structure often described as schema. Within an individual’s schema, the information is connected through nodes (concepts) to form a conceptual network.

Dual-Coding Theory: Dual-coding theory describes the modality information process in working memory. The modality information includes verbal and non-verbal. The dual-coding theory asserts that learning becomes more effective and efficient when incoming information is processed through multiple visual formats like text and pictures.

Sensory Memory: Sensory memory refers to the memory that receives inputs from five senses and stores the sensory information in a temporary memory storage. The information held in sensory memory is very brief, usually about 250 millisecond or a quarter of a second.

Virtual Reality: VR is generally associated with devices that provides immersive, virtual experience of corresponding real-world environments. There are considerable benefits for VR application in educational settings. The early aviation pilot training simulator is an example of a VR technology application in education. Recent applications of VR in education have aimed to develop learners’ critical thinking in science learning, teach complex learning content, and provide motivational support for engaged learning.

Augmented Reality: AR represents the effort to augment the existing content with computer-generated interactive experiences through sensory inputs like audio, visuals, and haptic manipulations. It provides learning support to existing content by integrating various digital technologies to enhance the educational and learning benefits of the materials.

Shallow Learning: Shallow learning refers to learning activities that characterized by recalling and rote memorization. The knowledge gained from shallow learning is considered passive and tends to fade away from our memory.

Working Memory: The working memory model proposed by Baddeley defines working memory as a temporary information processing storage within human brain that consists of three key components: central executive and two slave subsystems (phonological loop and visuo-spatial sketchpad). The phonological loop processes auditory information like sound, music, etc. The visuo-spatial sketchpad processes visual information like text, images, animation, etc. The central executive allocates attention to the slave subsystems and coordinates the operation of working memory. Within working memory, the auditory and visual information interact to form mental representations of the external object.

Deep Learning: Deep learning is associated with learning activities such as interacting with content, understanding and reasoning with materials, along with applying and transferring knowledge to new learning situations.

Immersive Technology: Immersive technology is a term describing technology that tries to emulate a physical world through the means of a digital or simulated world. It includes immersive technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality, 3D games, simulation, etc. Within an immersive environment, the learner is immersed in the stimulated world, thereby creating a sense of immersion.

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: