Whether you’re dressed up in fifties costume for this summer’s immersive version of Back to the Future by Secret Cinema, or are using Second Life for learning, which allows students to carry out work in a virtual environment, a 'real life' experience can certainly bring the screen or page to life.
Experiences such as this actively involve us and they can actually support students and enable them to learn. They see the objects, experience emotions and actively participate in what’s going on and are engaged in the experience.
One example where I've seen this used effectively is in bringing to life museum collections with interactive exhibits and digital displays. While such events are memorable, it isn’t always possible to undertake real-life events with learners. This can be due to cost, the time taken to organise the outing and there is also the added complication of being assured that everyone who needs to attend can.
So how about simulating reality
That’s where virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) come in. These technologies can provide an immersive experience, but through a digital platform. They offer new opportunities to support teaching and learning and help to overcome issues around cost, rarity, safety and replicability.
For example, the University of Derby with the Institute of Quarrying use Second Life to simulate a quarry environment and ask students to undertake exercises that they can’t do in real life without significant health and safety issues.
Through immersive or enhanced experiences students can simulate experiments, practicals and field work almost whenever and wherever they want to learn, and the task can be repeated over and over again until they build confidence and learn the skills required. This type of learning has the potential to transform learning materials and learning experiences and can be applied to a wide range of topics and subject areas to positive effect.
So what's next? - 3D learning
If immersive learning is already part of your experience how about taking the learning experience to the next level? Increasingly new 3D technologies are being called on to enhance simulations even further, using various methods such as modelling, digitisation, AR and VR to create high quality and realistic digital content.
This allows learners to experience artefacts or resources that aren't normally available to them, whether it be due to their being in an inaccessible location or the item being in a fragile condition. They can also explore and view resources at the same time, creating discussion and a sharing of ideas, when in reality only one resource may be available.
The potential benefits of using 3D content in supporting students to understand difficult concepts has not yet been fully realised across all subject disciplines, although there are some which are actively engaging their students in 3D content and it is certainly a growing interest area.
How do I create my own 3D content?
If you're interested in creating 3D content for use in teaching and learning our infokit provides information so that all subject areas can understand, develop and create 3D content.
For anyone interested in exploring the topic more deeply we have provided a page called 3D Resources. This also includes links to case studies showcasing 3D activities and best practice.