Simulations and immersive virtual environments provide authentic learning at a level that can spark curiosity and deeper understanding by engaging multiple senses in exploration. Presence, immersion, and access to learning environments beyond the limits of geography provide rich learning opportunities that can mitigate the effects of Socioeconomic limitations, Adverse Experiences, and physical challenges. Being immersed in the learning environment can also improve Attention, Working Memory, transfer to Long-term Memory, and support the development of a Learner Mindset.
The use of simulations and immersive virtual environments has been found to be particularly effective when paired with an inquiry-based approach to learning. Simulations can be categorized into three approaches in the work-based learning (WBL) environment allowing learners to practice the knowledge and skills they acquire in a real-world setting: simulation tools to teach specific skills or tasks, simulated workspaces to replicate a range of workplace expectations, and holistic experiences such as running an actual business in a given industry. What they and hybrid approaches have in common is the immersive learning opportunity that replaces or augments real world experiences through facilitated experiential learning. All immersive experiences, including AR, VR, and XR, support developing a Learner Mindset.
Augmented Reality (AR) technology overlays virtual objects into the real world. Effective uses of AR that align with Universal Design for Learning Principles include: adding QR codes to training materials, adding AR elements to electronic books, AR applications integrated with web technologies enhancing collaborative learning, using coloring and three dimensional imaging techniques, seeing step-by-step solutions, accessing inaccessible geographic spaces and locations, determining dangers and degrees of importance, and presenting natural events and experiences that cannot be experienced in the physical world. When designing products with AR, it is important to consider the effect on cognitive load, which could impact Working Memory.
Virtual Reality (VR) technology makes it possible to create an authentic, immersive learning environment with the potential to improve Attention, engagement, spatial awareness, and Long-term Memory. Since VR instills a sense of wonder and surprise, it can foster intrinsic Motivation leading to higher academic persistence and interest. Intercultural learning can take place in immersive environments to build intercultural communication without the need to travel to be immersed in another culture. VR can provide access by breaking the limitations of time and space while creating an environment in which people from different cultures interact.
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