Definition

Immersive learning is more than a single pedagogy or specific practice. It covers a wide range of approaches to teaching and learning, and isn’t specifically attached to a specific discipline, course of study, or eventual profession. It is, rather, an overarching approach to teaching and learning where certain qualities or conditions are necessary ingredients. These ingredients are further described below.  

Immersive learning isn’t a well-defined concept in the literature. It is a term that can be used to describe in-person and in-situ experiential teaching and learning practices such as: learning a foreign language through an immersive experience like a home stay in a study abroad program; acquiring career-specific professional knowledge through an internship, clinical practicum, or co-op program; or developing knowledge of a particular discipline within the context of another community and culture through global learning practices found in study away courses but also in community-based learning experiences such as service learning courses and other forms of community engagement. Immersive learning is found in the academy through experiences that are common to many institutions, including the ones described above, but also in less common or more narrowly defined practice. So, for example, it might be reasonably well-known that health science education, such as nursing and medicine, commonly involves clinical rotations or practicum experiences where students are involved in authentic, real-world learning activities under the guidance and supervision of a professional. Lesser known, perhaps, is the growing trend in the health sciences to develop “almost-real” learning experiences through the use of simulated manikins that can offer students the opportunity to learn in quasi realistic environments. 

Immersive learning can also be a structural innovation, such as when colleges and universities take advantage of intensive, short-term course structures such as January terms or May-mesters, where courses are decreased in duration but class meetings are lengthened and more frequent. The extreme version of this structure are the institutions whose entire curriculum is delivered via this “block” model. In these cases, rather than a once-a-year opportunity, such as a J-term, the full academic calendar is built on one short-term block course after another.  

It should be acknowledged that immersive learning is also a term that is sometimes used to describe a variety of virtual practices in which learning takes place through digitally mediated and online technology platforms. This resource page recognizes the duality of the meanings that immersive learning holds for higher education, and purposefully focuses on programs, courses, structures, and instances of learning that take place in real-world settings rather than those that are primarily or wholly digitally constructed. 

The following is a working description of the six characteristics of practices that might fall under the umbrella term of immersive learning, a term and definition that is broad, that remains in flux, and, therefore, remains in continual development. This description is specifically intended to define and describe qualities of in-person, real-world immersive learning pedagogies and practices. If any of the following qualities work as descriptions of virtual versions of immersive learning, that is an unintended but welcome eventuality. 

1) Time and Focus

There are differential effects that time can have on learners as it relates to specific tasks or activities including how many competing tasks a learner needs to accomplish within  any specific learning interval (Soares 1998), the length of time a learner is given for an individual learning task (Carroll 1994), or the time-bound frequency and spacing of learning activities. Time is perhaps the most obvious variable that can be controlled as a means of increasing the possibility of deep learning. At the same time, it may be the most complex of the defining qualities of immersive learning, and as such is represented here as a multipart characteristic.  

  • Degree of Focus represents the dedicated amount of attention a student is able to put toward engaging with a specific learning task relative to competing concerns (Soares 1998). Put in the form of a question: Is it easier for an individual to learn when there are fewer items for a student to focus on? Immersive learning practices seek to create opportunities for deep learning by reducing the cognitive load for the learner so that she is better able to exclusively focus on a single task or topic for a period of time without distraction. 
  • Time on Task is related to the concept of degree of focus but is also different. It describes the amount of time allotted for dedicated engagement with a learning activity and, to a reasonable extent, suggests that longer periods of sustained learning activity might be more beneficial than shorter ones (Gullatt 2006; van Gog 2013). Time on task would typically be measured in terms of physical time, but might also be accounted for by credit hours, or another metric. 
  • Continuity of Learning describes the interval or frequency of instances of a learning experience. In the construct of a typical university experience, a class that meets M/T/W/Th/F each week might create opportunities for more connected, and therefore more thorough, learning than a class that meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week. When there are extended gaps of time between intervals of learning, the potential for loss of knowledge is higher. In an ideal structure, the material being learned persists in the mind of the learner long enough for it to penetrate beyond surface levels of understanding and retention. 

In earlier versions of this definition, these three sub-characteristics were structured as independent and separate qualities. However, after collecting and analyzing interviews from a wide range of teaching faculty and staff, it seems more likely that the three components are different but also associated aspects of the larger quality of time. Additionally, current research findings don’t describe time quite as neatly as packaged here. Faculty and staff that were interviewed generally didn’t discuss aspects of immersive learning related to time using these specific terms (degree of focus, time on task, continuity of learning), but they did speak to issues of learning related to time in a variety of ways. So while these specific qualities make sense in constructing a definition, in practitioner use they aren’t distinct or as carefully separated. 

2) Authentic and Situated Learning

The concept of authenticity refers to the level of direct and tangible engagement a learner has with specific tasks that occur within real-world contexts and in conjunction with specific individuals or communities (Hill and Hannafin 2001; Herrington and Herrington 2006). Authentic learning experiences provide students with opportunities to learn in contexts that approximate those that are relevant to a specific course of study. Therefore, the more a specific experience approximates the content and context of what is being learned, the more impact it is likely to have on a student’s comprehensive understanding of the learning material. 

The concept of situated learning is similar and proposes that learning is inherently situated within the context in which it takes place (Lave and Wenger 1991). Students are centered within the learning process or experience rather than removed from it. Learning is participatory and engaged; active and involved; and connected with the experiences of communities and in partnership and collaboration with peers (Wenger 2003). The concept of situated learning proposes that students learn best when they are able to match specific material to a real-world context. For example, learning about the mechanics of an automobile engine could be done in a classroom via presented visual aids, like slides or scale models, but will likely be more tangibly meaningful by examining a real motor that is part of a real automobile. 

In an ideal scenario, a learning experience will involve the following aspects of authenticity: (1) learning tasks that are as close to real as possible (rather than overtly designed, created, or simulated assignments); (2) learning that takes place in environments that directly link to the specified context of the material being learned, and (3) learning that allows students to engage directly with people and communities that are relevant to the specified task or environment. Authentic learning helps students move past retention of knowledge to higher order thinking processes including analysis, application, and synthesis.  

3) Autonomy and Agency

Immersive pedagogies cede some level of control over the learning process to the learner. In comparison to other modalities, students in immersive contexts are often confronted with higher degrees of choice and control over how they learn (Werner and McVaugh 2000). Students often need to make decisions independently or seek guidance from individuals that aren’t the defined instructor of the course or project. Immersive learning experiences therefore ask students to manage greater amounts of autonomy over the learning process—individually and, at times, collaboratively with peers. The benefits of autonomy for the learner are developmental and process focused (Smith 2003; Smith 2008) and inherently related to intrinsic motivation (Werner and McVaugh 2000). 

The concept of agency is related to autonomy, but more specifically relates to an individual’s ability to realize and actualize power over a particular situation (Klemenčič 2015). In an immersive learning experience, in addition to the opportunity to act with heightened levels of autonomy, students can connect actions to outcomes, realizing their own power and control over learning. Immersive learning encourages students to act with intention and to become active participants in learning, rather than be passive recipients (Vaughn 2020). 

4) Cognitive Dissonance

Learning can be a disruptive process and can affect our view of the world (Mezirow 1978). Learning can modify or challenge an individual’s previously held assumptions or knowledge about how things are or how they work (Hoskins 2013). Cognitive dissonance occurs when we confront or engage with content and experiences that alter or conflict with our beliefs. It’s possible that some level of dissonance is a precondition of learning; that transformation cannot happen in full without some measure of discomfort.  

Because immersive learning practices involve students with authentic settings, tasks, and communities, the instructor or facilitator loses some control over what and how they learn (Hoskins 2013; Ishii et al. 2011). Experiences such as study away, simulations of professional practice such as internships and practicums, or community-based learning can therefore increase the potential for a student to experience dissonance during the learning process (Dinani 2018). 

5) Reflection

The conditions of authentic learning, increased autonomy and agency, and the potential for dissonance related to both can require the instructor to intervene and help the student through difficult realizations or changes to previously held knowledge and beliefs (Kiely 2005). Reflection can be an important tool when used as a way to process and connect immersive experiences to other learning and to the world beyond college (Brookfield 2016). 

Regardless of the manner in which reflection is conducted (Sturgill and Motley 2014), the combined effects of the other qualities of immersive learning necessitate the need for facilitated reflective practices. The heightened levels of student autonomy and agency, their wrestling with the dissonance that often accompanies authentic engagement, all stand to benefit from reflective practices, ones that work best with guidance and facilitation (Hartman et al. 2018).  

6) Facilitation and Guidance

Because of the variable nature of immersive experiences, the instructor’s lack of full control over the learning environment and process, and the potential for students to experience dissonance, there is often a clear need for guidance and facilitation (Margalef and Roblin 2016). While the authentic, place-based settings in which immersive learning often occurs can be effective at helping students connect theoretical knowledge to real-world practice, this can be a messy experience. In order to appropriately scaffold student learning, especially when hands-on application is required, the learning environment must be aligned and coherent with the specific outcomes desired (Guskey 2014). Skilled facilitators are needed to orient and guide students in their understanding of the immersive learning experience, to help shape it in such a way that it is beneficial and not counterproductive (Rogers 1969). Ultimately, the control that is ceded during an immersive learning practice can be mitigated and managed by a facilitator acting as a “guide on the side” and as a co-learner.  

Two students look at each other, laughing. They both wear Elon Law T-shirts, and they are holding bags and standing near a table filled with packages of Spaghettio’s.
Elon law students volunteer in the community. Photo by Elon University.

Ranges of Intensity 

The proposed definition above states that all of these six qualities need to be present to be considered as immersive learning, but it doesn’t suggest any specific levels of intensity for any of them. Each of the six qualities is essentially a range from low to high or minimum to maximum, and in any given immersive learning experience the range of a particular quality may vary. An inherent aspect of this definition of immersive learning then is the need to appreciate that different learning experiences may draw from the six qualities in varying levels of intensity. Depending on the type of learning experience, different qualities may be present in higher amounts or greater intensity than others. 

A simple way to consider this might be to think of each immersive learning quality as a range of intensity as applied to specific practice. A simple example might be to compare two different types of service-learning courses. To illustrate, three visual examples are included. The first, Figure 1, simply shows the six qualities but all set to minimum intensity.

Mixing board labeled with the six qualities of immersive learning. Each item is set to minimum intensity.
Figure 1

In the first example, let’s imagine that the community partner for the course is a nonprofit organization located near the university—a local service-learning type of course commonly encountered in many colleges and universities. In this experience, students work autonomously and experience dissonance; they spend focused time in an authentic context (setting, task, and community). To work through what they’ve learned and experienced, they are required to participate in facilitated reflection activities. As shown in Figure 2, the six defined qualities are present, but, potentially, at levels that are comparatively lower than for a global service-learning course, our second example.  

Mixing board labeled with the six qualities of immersive learning. Each quality is set at a different intensity on a minimum to maximum intensity scale
Figure 2 – Local service learning course

In the global service-learning course, due to the nature of the “away” component of such an experience, students are able to spend increased amounts of time on the learning task and are afforded greater opportunities to focus deeply on what they are learning. They will likely need to act more autonomously than in the local service-learning course due to the time-bound differences between the two types of experiences, and they might also encounter increased cognitive dissonance because of the potential for cultural practices or other components that differ significantly from what they are accustomed to. Figure 3 attempts to capture these differing levels of intensity. 

Mixing board labeled with the six qualities of immersive learning. Each item is set to near maximum intensity.
Figure 3 – Global service learning course

The ranges of the defined qualities and how they map to a specific practice can be useful in analyzing and assessing that practice, especially after the learning experience is complete. They can also, however, be used to plan for student learning needs associated with a specific type of practice. Being able to visualize and consider potential ranges of intensity of each quality before a learning experience might be useful in helping an instructor anticipate certain impacts of a specific practice, and subsequently prepare for them. 

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What makes it a high-impact practice?

The question of whether or not immersive learning is a distinct high-impact practice (Kuh 2008), in and of itself, isn’t clear and is likely a matter of interpretation and categorization: interpretation in the sense that how a practitioner views the number of pedagogies that can be linked to immersive learning and if they are too many to make immersive learning distinctly a unique, stand-alone HIP; categorization because one way of looking at the current set of defined HIPs is to consider which involve immersion as an ingredient that is integral to a particular HIP being what it is. Immersion is usually a component of practices such as internships, service learning / community-based learning, and diversity / global learning. Sometimes it’s also part of practices such as undergraduate research, learning communities, or capstone courses and projects.  

Immersion can also be a “force multiplier” of sorts in how it can enhance some high-impact practices by being a bridge between two separate HIPs. For example, global service-learning is essentially a combination of diversity / global learning with service learning / community-based learning (Kuh 2008). In this particular example, immersion is the component that amplifies and deepens the value of direct learning and situated engagement with a community. It extends the learning, provides opportunities for meaningful relationships, and maximizes learning time in ways that typical course experiences in a university setting generally don’t achieve.  

If I were to make an argument for immersive learning becoming its own high-impact practice, then my argument would be along the lines of it providing students with opportunities for engagement in authentic tasks, with authentic communities, and within authentic settings. I would also argue that immersive learning places students in situations where their levels of autonomous engagement and interaction with a learning task and their sense of agency over any related learning procedures or requirements are also important to consider. The other constituent parts of the definition of immersive learning, proposed above, are all important aspects, but the ones that stand out as characterizing immersive learning as a unique and specific HIP are, in my view, the authentic nature of the learning scenario and the opportunity for students to operate with higher levels of autonomy and agency than they are likely afforded in non-immersive learning experiences.

Nine students crouch or sit along rows of vegetables in a garden, picking vegetables or weeding. A yellow tub sits on the ground near one student.
Elon students harvest vegetables from Loy Farm. Photo by Elon University.

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Research-Informed Practices

Immersive learning as a concept is a newly defined field in many respects; the practices that might fall under such a designation are not. As the concept of immersive learning as described in this resource is broad, many of the following practices could be organized differently. It is clearly possible for many of the specific practices listed below to be located in more than one of the following groupings. Nonetheless, the suggested organization should help convey both the range of experiences that are related to immersive learning, and hopefully, ways in which they might be reorganized depending on the primary desired outcome of any specific practice. 

Community-based learning encapsulates a range of practices where interactions with community are at the forefront of the learning process including (but not limited to) the following: 

  • Service learning and other forms of course-based community engagement where students learn relevant material by partnering with and working within a defined community  
  • Social innovation, enterprise, and entrepreneurship where students work to develop business-oriented solutions to challenges that are defined within the social aspects of a community  
  • Teacher education including individual student teaching and practicum experiences 

Global education includes courses and other learning programs that combine disciplinary learning with intercultural learning and take place away from the university itself. These practices, in aggregate, are increasingly being referred to as “study away” and occur both within and across a nation’s borders. 

  • Study abroad where the learning context involves crossing an international border 
  • Study USA (in the United States) where learning occurs away from the university campus but within the confines of the country 

Hands-on research practice includes research practices that connect disciplinary learning to real-world contexts. 

  • Field research 
  • Teacher education practicum (observation-based) 
  • Community-based research 

Work-integrated learning where the learning is “professionalized” and the focus is on engaging students with authentic settings, tasks, and persons that mimic the work of a specific career trajectory. 

  • Internships, where students earn course credit for a specific number of hours working in an aligned professional environment 
  • Co-op programs, which extend the concept of an internship into a short-term, but full-time professional learning experience 
  • Teacher education, sometimes referred to as “student teaching,” is a broad term that includes various practices where students learn about being teachers in hands-on, authentic environments 
  • Practicum experiences allow students to observe and document professional experiences related to a field of study 
  • Clinical rotations are most closely related to internships but are (usually) specific to the health sciences including nursing and medical education

Simulated learning includes a range of learning experiences that take place in a designed environment that mimics a real-world, professional setting, and that involves a structured activity. 

  • Role playing and other forms of mimicked experiences in which students act as participants 
  • Standardized patients, which are essentially human actors trained to participate in and facilitate a simulated learning experience 
  • Medical simulations, often involving manikins, that can respond in close-to-real ways 
  • Flight simulators typical to aviation education 

Combinations of high-impact practices in which one or more specific immersive learning practices is combined and the potential for meaningful learning and growth is increased. 

  • Community-based participatory research combines the community engagement of service learning and the hands-on, mentored research from undergraduate research practices. 
  • International or global service learning in which students have opportunities for intercultural and community-driven learning via direct experience with a community in an international location or one within the host country, but away from the primary campus location. 

Structural modifications refers to the strategic and intentional manipulation of the structural formation of courses and programs of study to explicitly address issues of time, focus, continuity, or other concerns. In most cases, the structural manipulation concerns how courses are offered within a given block of time. In comparison to how courses are structured in a typical university semester system, most block structures involve students taking a single course that is offered for a shortened amount of time—usually three to four weeks instead of 14-15. Compared to the length of typical semester-style courses, classes offered in block structures usually meet for longer periods of time—normally for three to four hours per session—and with increased frequency—typically every day of the week, Monday through Friday.  
 
Other innovations also exist such as trimesters where students take courses during three terms during an academic year. Trimesters are becoming rare. Davidson College was on a trimester system until the 1988-89 academic year when they switched to a traditional semester system. Under the trimester system, students at Davidson took three classes each trimester with each class meeting every day of the week (leading to enhanced time for learning through continuity, focus, and time on task).  

Hybrid structures can also be found where multiple single course blocks are combined with longer semester-like terms where students take several courses. Guilford College’s new structure is a good example of this. Students at Guilford now start in the fall with a single 3-week block course followed by a more traditional 12-week semester where they take multiple courses. 
 
The following institutions are in some way innovative in the ways that they structure students’ education during an academic year: 

Several people wearing hard hats and heavy gloves lift pieces of lumber above their heads. Several are smiling or laughing.
Elon students participate in a Habitat for Humanity build. Photo by Elon University.

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Embedded and Emerging Questions for Research, Practice, and Theory

This resource page attempts to define immersive learning as a set of pedagogical practices that is in and of itself unique and distinct from other pedagogies and practices that share some of the qualities as set forth here. What’s not fully addressed here, and that warrants further examination, are questions about how to accurately describe the benefits of immersive learning to students and the ways in which they learn; how to explain to teachers what immersive learning allows them to achieve; and, to some extent, the effect that immersive learning has on other participants that are at times involved in the learning process such as community partners, preceptors, internship coordinators, etc.  

Additionally, research on immersive learning so far has explored the views and experiences of higher education faculty, staff, and administrators. The same investigation should be done with students, current and graduated, to determine their views on the immersive learning practices they possibly encountered through university courses and other experiences. Doing so may confirm some of the findings from faculty and staff, but it also may not. Regardless, having such a data set would allow for valuable comparisons and triangulation with the faculty / staff / administrator data.  

Two students stand in a forest, smiling toward the camera. They wear wide-brimmed hats and backpacks, and both are carrying clipboards and pencils. One student carries a ziplock bag filled with small objects.
Biology students conduct summer field work. Photo by Elon University.

Another issue that needs further exploration concerns the possible challenges that exist within typical higher education structures, ones that prevent the ready and widespread adoption of immersive practices. What types of challenges prevent faculty members from adopting approaches to teaching and learning that allow students to more authentically understand a disciplinary domain and put relevant knowledge and skills into practice? Why are many institutions, including this one to some extent, often lauded for their implementation of community-based learning practices, such as service learning, and for globalized education through study abroad /study USA experiences, while not being nearly as successful at combining the two practices? In some respects, pedagogies like global service learning experiences that combine aspects of multiple high-impact practices can be very rich in their combined potential for disciplinary learning AND professional learning AND intercultural learning. 

And, finally, what types of support and resources might be necessary to encourage a broader adoption of immersive learning practices beyond the more common locations where we find robust adoption, such as centers of community-based teaching and learning, internship coordinators and placement offices, or centers of global education? How can we better encourage faculty to cede some of the practical and operationalized learning opportunities from their direct control to other mechanisms that exist (often) outside of the classroom or campus? And, how do we persuade faculty that the potentially messy and sometimes under-structured aspects of many immersive learning practices are often the very aspects that extend and heighten the potential for deep learning? 

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Key Scholarship

Literature that explicitly addresses immersion as a component of high-impact learning is challenging to find. There are a handful of sources that deal with immersion explicitly, but those are generally quite narrowly framed (e.g., the long-standing practice of using immersive home stays to learn a second language). Finding sources that address immersive learning in meaningful and useful ways—as opposed to casual mentions of immersion as a component of a learning experience—often means locating literature focused on specific pedagogies or high-impact practices such as study away or community-based learning, or ones that address a defining component of immersive learning such as the significance of authentic engagement and situated learning. The following list of sources are some of the literature that best capture a significant aspect of immersive practices and their value to learners. 

  • Engle, Lilli, and John Engle. 2003. “Study Abroad Levels: Toward a Classification of Program Types.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 9 (1): 1-20.

    About this Journal Article:

    In basic terms, this article is helpful in how it describes study away experiences using five levels, with full immersion representing the highest level of learning engagement. More importantly, the article does a good job of demonstrating comparable differences in the range of study away experiences that a typical college student might have. The authors suggest that deeply immersive experiences, such as ones that involve home stays, language challenges, and/or community-based interactions or professional internships, provide students with deeper levels of learning engagement on a variety of fronts than ones in which students live in co-housing or take classes in their primary language. The article also discusses the value of authentic cultural engagement and the need for guided reflective processing to help students make sense of potentially dissonant experiences. 

  • Hartman, Eric, Richard Kiely, Christopher Boettcher, and Jessica Friedrichs. 2018. Community-Based Global Learning: The Theory and Practice of Ethical Engagement at Home and Abroad. . Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

    About this Book:

    Hartman et al. make a strong case for responsible community-based learning of all forms, but specifically for engagement that takes place between students and universities and their international community partners. And, although this book does not explicitly focus on immersive practices, there are numerous examples of deeply immersive learning experiences throughout many of the chapters. Many of the examples provided demonstrate many of the components of immersive learning as defined in this resource including authentic, place-based engagement, the need for heightened student agency, students reckoning with dissonant experiences, and the need for reflection as a method of sensemaking. 

  • Inks, Scott, and Ramon Avila. 2008. “Preparing the Next Generation of Sales Professionals through Social, Experiential, and Immersive Learning Experiences.” Journal for Advancement of Marketing Education 13 (1): 47-55.

    About this Journal Article:

    This article focuses on designing studentdirected, authentic, community-based learning experiences for students and the need for an active facilitative guide from a faculty member. This article draws nuanced learning engagement distinctions between types of work-integrated learning experiences and models of service learning. It also points out interesting differences between the immersive learning experiences as described in the article and internships stating that in the former students benefit from the active and continual involvement by a faculty member in ways that aren’t part of the typical internship experience. The article further defines the team-based approach of the designed immersive learning experience and the inherent value of students experiencing and learning from the authentic, partnered work together. 

  • Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

    About this Book:

    This book is an essential text for anyone interested in the theory that all learning is situated in a specific context and that placing students in learning environments that most closely approximate the specific nature of the learning goals of the experience is beneficial. Lave and Wenger give support for the idea that providing students with opportunities for authentic engagement within a specific topic or domain can be the best way for them to connect abstract, disciplinary knowledge to an eventual need or applied usage.

     

  • Warner, Beth, and Judy Esposito. 2009. “What’s Not in the Syllabus: Faculty Transformation, Role Modeling and Role Conflict in Immersion Service-Learning Courses.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education 20 (3): 510-517.

    About this Journal Article:

    This article describes immersive learning in the context of international service learning (or domestic service learning that happens away from the local community surrounding an institution) where students and faculty live and work together in a deeply immersive environment. The article is careful to articulate the difference in international or away service learning, where the immersion is constant, with localized experiences where the service learning experience is socketed into a student’s day. The article also discusses the value and need of the instructor working in close proximity to students as a facilitative guide to the learning experience. 

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Model Programs

Block curriculum 

Colleges and universities that implement full block curricula, meaning offering courses exclusively through block terms, are not very common. In the US and Canada there are only a handful of institutions that fully do so. Two model institutions come to mind. First, Colorado College in Colorado Springs, CO is a small, private, liberal arts college that exclusively operates using a block plan and has an enrollment of just over 2,000 students. The other institution is the University of Montana Western in Dillon, MT, a public university with an enrollment of just under 1,400 students. The academic calendar for both institutions is similar: eight course blocks are offered sequentially throughout the year; each block is about 3 ½ weeks in duration. Students only take one course per block. What these institutions offer is essentially eight January terms in a row. 

Elon University: Interactive Media “fly-in” course 

In Elon University’s Interactive Media graduate program all students participate in a global service learning course, IME 6700: Interactive Project for the Public Good, that is taught during the university’s January term, which falls in the middle of the one-year professional master’s degree curriculum. (Note: The “fly-in” course is a single iteration of the type of course taught at Colorado College or Montana Western in that it meets for three and a half weeks, every day of the week (M-F) and for extended durations.) The course is designed to allow students to practice skills and implement knowledge learned in the classroom in professionally AND interculturally challenging environments. Due to the singular block nature of the course structure, and to the extended time and focus of the study away component, students are provided high levels of immersive learning in terms of time, focus, situatedness, and cognitive dissonance. The need for reflection to process the professional and cultural learning opportunities is high, and the guidance of a skilled facilitator is essential. 

UC-Riverside School of Medicine: LACE program 

The Longitudinal Ambulatory Care Experience (LACE) program at UC-Riverside School of Medicine is a hands-on, experiential learning approach to medical education that has some notable features. In many medical schools, students aren’t involved with direct patient care until their third year. Students in the LACE program begin in their third week. Students enter into long-term mentor-mentee relationships with supervising physicians that are sustained for much longer durations than is typical. Viewed through the time component of immersive learning, the LACE program affords students heightened levels of time-on-task and opportunities for learning continuity. The program is also an excellent example of the need for strong guidance and facilitation from a skilled preceptor / mentor. And, due to another unique aspect of UCR School of Medicine—the lack of an affiliated hospital—students are involved directly with community-based healthcare in ways that are deeply authentic and clearly situated in appropriate professional contexts. 

Purdue University: HDFS Internship Program 

Purdue’s Human Development and Family Studies Internship Program is designed to be a capstone experience for students in either of two majors: 1) human services and 2) developmental and family science. As stated on the internship program’s web page, “The capstone experience provides students with an immersive, applied experience in an HDFS-related context.” It is a 40-hour-per-week experience for a full semester and allows students to gain direct knowledge of the field, practice skills used in social services, and develop appropriate professional behavior. The program is designed to provide student majors with a deep dive into the situated contexts of an authentic professional environment where they learn by doing. The experience is mentored by both a professional preceptor and a faculty facilitator. The HDFS internship is thought of as being a “both / and” experience. For participating students, it is both a professional experience—through direct supervision and guidance—AND an academic experience—via regular reflection and academic mentoring. 

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Place-Based Learning Along the Duwamish

Limed: Teaching with a Twist – Episode 3 Dr. Ben Machado, from South Seattle College, recently received a grant to incorporate place-based learning into his introductory biology classroom. Panelists Kelsey Bitting, Scott Morrison, and Dani Toma-Harrold provide ideas and insight…

The Challenge of Locating Literature on Immersive Pedagogies

Locating a clear and obvious body of literature that names, describes, and defines immersion as a pedagogy has been challenging. Immersion is only occasionally mentioned explicitly in many sources and often only in a handful of areas of higher education…

Initial Views on Research Data about Immersive Learning

Over the course of the last year, I have collected 54 interviews with higher education faculty and staff, from fifteen separate institutions, all of whom are involved with immersive learning in some capacity. I haven’t done this work alone; I…

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Elon Statement on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience

Higher-Impact Study Abroad and Off-Campus Domestic Study Download a Printer-Friendly (PDF) Copy of the Elon Statement on Global Learning From 2015 to 2017, 25 scholars participated in the Center for Engaged Learning research seminar on Integrating Global Learning with the University Experience:…

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References

  • Brookfield, Stephen. 2016. “So What Exactly Is Critical About Critical Reflection?” In Researching Critical Reflection, edited by Jan Fook, Val Collington, Fiona Ross, Gillian Ruch and Linden West, 9–22. Abingdon, England: Routledge. 
  • Carroll, Joseph. 1994. “The Copernican Plan Evaluated: The Evolution of a Revolution.” Phi Delta Kappan 76: 104-110, 112-113. 
  • Dinani, Thandiwe. 2018. “Faith Development While Abroad Amongst African American Students.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad 30 (1): 8-19. 
  • Gullatt, David. 2006. “Block Scheduling: The Effects on Curriculum and Student Productivity.” NASSP Bulletin 90 (3): 250-266. 
  • Guskey, Thomas. 2014. “Planning Professional Learning.” Educational Leadership 71 (8): 10-16. 
  • Hartman, Eric, Richard Kiely, Christopher Boettcher, and Jessica Friedrichs. 2018. Community-Based Global Learning: The Theory and Practice of Ethical Engagement at Home and Abroad. Sterling, VA: Stylus. 
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The Center thanks Phillip Motley for contributing the initial content for this resource as part of his CEL Scholar work.