Adaptations for Immersive Education – first edify workshop

Higher Education
April 28, 2021
3 minutes
read
By
Sarune Savickaite

Immersive learning refers to a new teaching methodology which uses Extended Reality (XR), either AR (Augmented Reality) or VR (Virtual Reality), to simulate three dimensional worlds, enabling a fully immersive learner experience and improving teaching effectiveness. The StriVR (2021) blog suggests that the benefits of immersive learning are extensive. Learners are immersed in a realistic real-life scenario and ‘doing by trying’ makes information acquisition more effective. New technology enables vast data collection, from head rotation and movements to eye tracking and predictive analytics. Finally, immersive content creates a sense of presence and learners are often reported as feeling more engaged in training activities.

Edify is a new immersive teaching platform. It uses VR and video conferencing to enable engaging educational experiences. This method of lesson delivery is often referred  to as ‘VR by proxy’ and has revolutionised the concept of teaching during Covid-19 pandemic.

Edify prides itself on their close relationship with the world of academia, and especially, their partnership with the University of Glasgow. The next step is to engage a wider academic audience and encourage further discussion on the benefits of immersive teaching. Establishment of Edify Communities encourages collaborative projects, teaching excellence, interdisciplinary knowledge transfer, career progression and more. As a first step towards building Edify Communities, Edify held the first workshop in early February 2021. The aim was to initiate discussion around immersive education, gather open feedback about BETA version of Edify platform and discuss any other arising topics.

This workshop  was run remotely and collaborators from the University of Glasgow and Edify engaged in a fruitful discussion. Organiser,  Sarune Savickaite, opened up the session by  providing a quick overview of Edify. Jonathan Failes, quality assurance manager at Edify, demonstrated the main features of the platform. Attendees at the workshop had very varied levels of familiarity with Edify and the demo allowed everyone to see what it can be used for. Shortly after, an informative conversation followed.

Dr Pauline McKay, a Win A Lab winner, talked about her experiences building the Burns: Off the Beaten Track lesson. She described how challenges were overcome and what the key aspects of the immersive teaching session were.  Dr Nathan Kirkwood, education partnership manager at Edify, also shared his experiences about how the lesson was built and what resources were required to allow Pauline to deliver such an effective lesson.

Johnny Briggs, learning technology specialist at the University of Glasgow, shared his own involvement with Edify and how useful the platform was. Soon a clear issue emerged  – a more practical training on how Edify can be adapted is needed. Pauline’s lesson was used as a perfect example. By watching it in action, academics gained a better understanding of how the platform works  and it no longer seemed so mysterious.

Cognitive load was mentioned as a concept, which refers to information overload and multitasking complexity in preparing and delivering Edify lesson. Dr David Simmons, supervising several PhD students with collaborative studentships with Edify, referred to the basics of a theatre production, and how employing tools to prompt and guide the actors can be used in reducing cognitive load for teachers using Edify. Dr Rachel Opitz, senior lecturer in spatial archaeometry and organiser of IElab at the University of Glasgow, added how visual cues, such as indications where teacher must stand or look, can further improve teaching experience. It was concluded that future research into cognitive load in immersive teaching is of crucial importance.

Finally, the discussion was brought to an end and Edify Communities was introduced. All the attendees responded positively to the idea and were excited to attend any future workshops. Hopefully, small discussion groups and workshops such as this might eventually lead to more elaborate and influential projects.

You can join Edify Communities on Discord at www.tinyurl.com/edifydiscord!