The annual IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering (TALE) focuses on research on education in STEM subjects – science, technology, engineering and mathematics. TALE is the IEEE Society’s flagship Asia-Pacific conference and one of the learning conferences in engineering and computing education as well as learning technology. This year’s conference being the biggest conference of the TALE series so far, with 350 attendees, IEEE TALE 2018 was organised into different programme tracks ranging from engineering education, computing education and STEM education to technology-enhanced learning, laboratory learning, and equity, diversity & widening participation (and more). Besides the general tracks, the conference offered three special tracks, including the ‘XR (VR/AR/MR) & Immersive Learning Environments’ track where Andreas Dengel and Jutta Mägdefrau submitted their paper. This special track derived from a cooperation of the TALE with the Immersive Learning Research Network led by Professor Jonathan Richter from Salish Kootenai College (USA) who hosted the iLRN 2018 conference in Missoula, Montana.
The eight-page article addresses the question what factors influence learning outcomes in so-called ‘immersive learning environments’. These environments describe (particularly digital) learning environments in which the learner gets a sense of presence, the feeling of ‘being there’. This subjective feeling can derive for example from the design of the software or from the use of virtual reality technology, both together setting the level of immersion which can be provided by a teacher. Beside the level of immersion, subjective components like motivational, cognitive and emotional factors influence this sense of presence as well. As these factors are known to not only influence presence but also to have crucial effects on the learning process itself, Andreas Dengel and Jutta Mägdefrau chose a well-established educational framework for the explanation of scholastic learning, developed by the German educational scholar Andreas Helmke in order to localise these new factors inside the process of learning. The resulting ‘Educational Framework for immersive Learning’, in short: EFiL, tries to explain learning processes in immersive educational environments. This framework can be used as a basis for future research and discussions as it provides established theories from the educational sciences, presence research and psychology.
In his doctoral research project, which is supervised by Professor Jutta Mägdefrau and Professor Tim Bell of the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), Andreas Dengel explores immersive learning, which combines perspectives from the educational sciences, psychology and computer science. In particular, his doctoral thesis focuses on computer science education and involves developing and testing virtual-reality environments, designed for teaching and learning several computer science concepts, so as to test the assumptions underlying the EFiL framework. By adopting a ‘Computer Science Unplugged’ approach, the theories and ideas behind the selected computer science concepts are made tangible. Andreas Dengel is supported in the conception and the reflection of the designed virtual realities by Ute Heuer (University of Passau) and Professor Tim Bell. The prototypes for the virtual realities that are to be used in the main study were developed as projects in their own right in the interdisciplinary seminar ‘Learning in Virtual Realities’ by students Andrea Auer, Tobias Ettl, Markus Georgi, Monika Schropp and Patrick Urlbauer. The seminar is a joint course between the disciplines of art pedagogy (Dorothe Knapp) and computer science education (Andreas Dengel) and is part of the SKILL subproject ‘Information and Media Literacy’ at the University of Passau.
The SKILL project is part of the ‘Qualitätsoffensive Lehrerbildung’, a joint initiative of the German federal government and the German Länder which aims to improve the quality of teacher training. The programme is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research.