In a learning environment, we typically deal with two types of issues: skill or will. A skill issue is typically linked to knowledge or ability, both of which can be enhanced through functional or motor skills. Experiential learning has proven to be a great tool in developing skills.

But when it comes to a “will” issue, the problem is a bit trickier than teaching a skill. The problem statement may sound something like this: “They know they need to work together, but they don’t.” Logically and conceptually, the employees understand that working together is the right thing to do, but there may be many things holding them back from actually bringing that understanding into practice.

In dealing with a “will” issue, we’re looking for a behavioral shift, and to enable that shift, we need a more immersive environment: an environment that is contextual and takes into account all the varied facets of real life. The scenario doesn’t need to be realistic, but the environment must be made as believable as possible through storytelling and context-setting. It should have varied levels of complex elements that attempt to consume 100 percent of the participants’ mental capacity.

1. Contextual 2. Composite 3. Iterative 4. Reflective

Only a composite environment will enable native behaviors. For instance, in an immersive game that requires you to travel from Earth to Mars, you may not only have to worry about your food and your fuel but also many other elements, such as your external situation (the asteroid field and the damage it’ll inflict), the activities you do on the spaceship and its overall impact on the oxygen consumption.

The objective in immersive learning is to create an experience where natural behaviors will surface time and again through multiple iterations, which are subsequently followed by reflective conversations that trigger realizations. These realizations lead to change as players acknowledge that their behaviors are counterproductive for the objective they are trying to achieve.

In a nutshell, there are many differences between experiential learning and immersive learning. Here are some prominent ones:

  • Experiential learning isn’t nearly as meticulously designed as immersive learning, since it’s designed on a linear environment where specific actions have right or wrong outputs. Immersive learning, on the other hand, isn’t concerned with right and wrong; its goal is to give more holistic and life-like experiences that take into account the multitude of gray areas we deal with on a daily basis.
  • Experiential learning attempts to give people an opportunity to complete tasks as they would in real life and draw learning from them. Immersive learning ventures to extract the individuals from their environment and immerses them into a completely different environment altogether.

Experiential vs. Immersive Learning table