Today’s students are graduating into jobs that didn’t exist when they first arrived in school. Employers value collaboration, communication and critical problem solving skills (fluid intelligence) above the accumulation of knowledge (crystallized intelligence), yet we still teach and test students on the latter.
The world of education still clings to traditional teaching methodologies and standardized testing because it’s what they know. But the rest of us know that it’s not working.
To better prepare students for an unforeseeable future, I recommend bringing next-generation technologies together with the behavioral trends ingrained in every other aspect of a student’s life to create a future-proof learning system called Immersive Learning.
Since the 1960s, we’ve known we retain 10 percent of what we read, 50 percent of what we see and hear and 90 percent of what we actually do. Experiential learning -- or learning by doing -- engages all of the senses, and as a result, moves students beyond simply understanding concepts, and allows them to analyze, create and problem solve, increasing fluid intelligence, and sometimes even grey matter.
Immersive Learning builds on these theories, and incorporates lessons from simulation training, advertising and consumer gaming to allow students to reach what psychologist Mihály Csíkszentmihályi calls “flow,” or complete absorption into an activity. I’ve distilled those lessons into seven steps to develop an Immersive Learning experience:
- Create a multisensory, multitasking environment
- Let students control the pace of their learning
- Provide context before, during and after each activity
- Set short- and long-term objectives
- Supply real-time feedback as a form of behavior modification
- Make assessment part of the learning experience
- Use gamification elements to make it fun
After consulting with a major education client, my company Chaotic Moon Studios put together a demo. The Immersive Learning prototype combines two inherently interactive technologies -- the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset and a Leap Motion gesture-based controller (similar to Microsoft's Kinect). Once inside the headset, students can view a digital simulation and interact with it in 3D space.
In the initial prototype, students wearing the headset can look at a periodic table of elements, manipulate 3D hydrogen and oxygen atoms, and even venture underwater to immerse themselves in the subject at hand: H2O. Students can experiment at their own pace, and interact freely to gain real-time feedback before periodic assessments.
The virtual reality headset doesn’t just transform traditional lessons into an Immersive Learning environment, it also lets students access worlds never before possible. Students can explore atoms, molecules and cells at large scale or journey through the entire cardiovascular system to understand how the human body works from the inside out. They can also venture back in time or into outer space using theoretical or statistical models that are ripe for multi-sensory exploration.
The Immersive Learning system is also ideal for distance learning and virtual training. Students of every age can engage in flexible, focused learning at their own time, pace and location, an ideal setting for entrepreneurs of every kind. Some possibilities include:
Know before you go. Those of us looking to dive into new fields, or who have ideas without the experience, can ramp up quickly before taking the plunge.
Modeling and testing. Mapping data on to life-size 3D models can give us deeper insight into issues or anticipate problems before launch or even build. While those in oil and gas can use this for better extraction, architects can completely transform their pitch process.
Learning outside your paygrade. Similar to simulations used in military, medical or aviation fields, entrepreneurs and employees can learn to use expensive equipment without costly repercussions.
Exercising your greatest asset. Entrepreneurs can use Immersive Learning to engage in a variety of interests in their down time, a creative cross-training with strong neurological results. A better brain means better business.
Elements of Immersive Learning have been deployed in sports, industrial, military and gaming environments with record success. And to better prepare our students -- and ourselves -- to succeed in these competitive fields, our education shouldn’t be so far behind. The combination of my seven principles, along with the potential of virtual reality, creates a formula for learning that is too promising to ignore.