How to increase engagement with immersive learning in Moodle
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How to increase engagement with immersive learning in Moodle

On Wednesday, July 5th, Near-Life CEO, Mike Todd, and Moodle Podcast Host, Sonya Trivedi, talked about how you can use Near-Life to increase engagement with immersive learning in Moodle.


If you’re not familiar with the topic, people often ask what is immersive learning and we like to look at it in the in the broadest sense. If you look at the kind of the academic literature in this, there has been quite a lot of research into it and why it works.

When is immersive learning effective?

In a lot of the research focuses on immersive learners having three core areas. One is system immersion, and what is meant by this is the more technical concept of what immersion is. So it could be the actual use of media, for example, VR XR content and the means by which you access it.  In this respect, the medium is the message: the media you’re using is the immersive experience

Narrative immersion is a much broader sense of what immersive is and could be. This could be likened to being immersed in a good book or a story. So it’s that idea that you want your learners or your end users to be immersed in the content, whether that’s through the technical approach you’re using, ie something like VR or even interactive video, or the narrative based stuff, which is, again, more immersive than simply just going through a quiz or reading dry factual information.

And there is challenge-based immersion which is something that you could equate to gamification, where you’re immersed in a task because it’s challenging: you’ve got to make choices decision, and you’ve got to interact, you’ve got to engage, and you’ve got to try and achieve things.

Those are really the three broad pillars of what is meant by immersive learning. You can actually combine all three immersion types together or use them independently. They can overlap, but they’re quite distinct as well.

Does immersive learning work?

The short answer is yes.

Immersive learning really an extension of established theory that exists already. And we know that for certain topics and certain subjects experiential learning, the idea of learning by doing, works. We know that gamification works. And really immersive learning, as it’s come to be understood today, is an evolution of those type of concepts.

We know that enhanced engagement and interactions allows for the capacity to have better evaluations or by placing people in a more immersive context where they’ve got to interact, make choices, decisions, or however you structure it, you know that the scope of better evaluation.

And it’s all supported by research that shows it isn’t actually just more engaging and entertaining often for the learners involved. But actually, knowledge retention is much, much higher.

Research by Ofcom, the media regulator in the UK, found that you can actually increase knowledge retention by as much as 90%. And we know there’s a problem in learning those involved in this space with the forgetting curve. So it is very valuable. In that sense, it is more engaging, and it works better.

It also offers other added value. For example, that you can learn in a safe, realistic, controlled way, that you can go through a process again, it offers that safe failure, but still can be realistic. Immersive learning is grounded in existing learning theory and practice such as Kolb’s Learning Cycle, which supports the idea that if you do something you remember it better than if it’s just taught to you. So having an experience allows learners to reflect more, draw conclusions and learn from it, plus the ability to implement it in their day to day practice.


YuKai Chow’s Octalysis framework gives an idea of what gamification can do not just in learning, but in spaces like advertising and marketing as well. But you can see all of these can be applied in learning and offer that ability to bring about immersion. So the idea you can have a narrative, you can play a role as a protagonist, you can have scarcity, where you’ve got to maybe find objects or solve tasks, you can bring in these these bits, unpredictability, a time pressure is really kind of condensing the the core drivers that underly why things are a game or what appeals to us as humans in terms of playing games, and how we can kind of condense this and apply it to our learning.

You could look at gamification as a topic on its own, but we prefer to consider gamification under the broadest umbrella of immersive learning, because it really deals with that challenge based immersion and can be the narrative based immersion too.

Use cases

There are actually many and varied use cases for immersive learning. These are just a few that case uses from our users, people who kind of really push the boundaries in this space:

  • Emergency response
  • Soft-skills – inc. leadership and management training
  • Healthcare 
  • Sales and customer service

It’s probably obvious, but emergency response often fits the bill very, very neatly. Sectors where dramatic, decision-based learning is required, for example: what would you do in a situation when you’re under pressure? when you’ve got to make a decision quickly?, emergency response training or security based training.

So that’s really a space, we’ve seen a lot of adoption with immersive learning, but it can be used for soft skills as well more in the corporate space. Examples include dealing with difficult customers, managing difficult conversations, managing poor performance, coping with feedback, sales training. All of these type of situations can be played through an immersive approach and make the learning more engaging, more effective.

We’ve also seen a lot of adoption in the healthcare sector, especially around simulations and nursing simulations, ie: how you deal with a patient, make choices, diagnose them, go through triage, etc. In fact, Moodle did a case study with a University about the nursing simulations they’ve created.

If you consider where is situational decision-making important? Where do you want to place someone in a position where they’ve got to make choices and make a decision in that situation? Then you can adapt the learning pretty easily to this immersive experience. And whether you’re using real life simulations with actors, or just your fellow colleagues, it is pretty easy to translate those simulation into the immersive elearning space by usin a tool like Near-Life (or another tool) to create your content.

Design process

This is an example of how we would go about things.

The Near-Life design process. A graphic flowchart of 8 steps: Identify Learning Objectives, Story Workshop, Story Document, Game Diagrams, Scenario Script, Media Production, Media Edit, Game Build

Firstly, start with the learning objectives to understand what you’re trying to achieve. Next, we conduct a story workshop with key stakeholders where we translate these learning objectives into a real world situation that you are going to have your learners face. Discuss what’s realistic, what choices will be presented? How will the narrative unfold? So this is really linked to that kind of narrative gamification approach. From that story workshop, we create a story document, which is really the narrative, the breakdown of choices and outcomes, which is the source that you’re going to build your game on.

Using the story document, we build the game diagrams in Near-Life because you can build a branching diagram very quickly and map out what the choices represent. You can then go into more detail in the scripts.

In terms of media, you can film actors or maybe you want to use a presenter-led format. You can use AI tools like Synthesia to create avatars and others tools, like Colosseum, where you can create videos. Plus, animation tools like Vyond. All those types of video creation tools can be used in this process. You can also create slides and just have choices, using a tool like Canva, and make it dynamic that way.

And then you would build and share from our platform, and you could put it in your your Moodle LMS.

Practical examples

So let’s dive into some practical examples. This is one example of a classic narrative story, game based, immersive learning. That’s also VR. So it sort of ticks all the boxes. The diagram is built in our in our authoring tool. This is an example that the World Health Organization use to train civilian doctors and nurses who form part of emergency medical teams. This project translated that into an immersive experience where it’s almost like a choose your own adventure style journey where you go on mission, you arrive at the airport.

EMT VR Game Diagram

You’re fully immersed in the situation because you are a character in the story. As you can see, it ticks a lot of the boxes in terms of its use: you’ve got the technical immersion because it’s using VR. It’s using the narrative-based immersion, because it’s a story. It’s also game in that the learner is interacting, making choices.

So this is just one example where the boundaries have been pushed a little bit in terms of making this training more accessible because you can reach a lot of international responders, they already do simulations, but they need to bring people to one place, they use actors, which can be very expensive, making the experience difficult for everyone to access. So this makes it a scalable experience.


Here’s another example that is much more down the gamification route. This is one that’s around cybersecurity. It’s using Vyond’s gamification templates, and it’s using quick quiz based choices. But, again, it has the narrative element of the story where you’ve got to get back to Earth and in order to do so you’ve got to solve some cyberspace challenges. It’s using 2D media, just to highlight doesn’t have to be VR and can still be immersive, using standard video.

Gamified Learning - Cybersecurity interactive game

Integrating with Moodle

You can quickly and easily integrate these immersive learning experiences into your Moodle LMS using LTI.

In your Moodle admin area, simply click to add an activity or resource, then select the external tool icon. Give your activity a name and click the “show more” option. You can add a description and set the settings that you require, which you’ll be familiar with if you’re a Moodle user.

LTI integration for Moodle - a screenshot of the three key items needed to integrate your Near-Life immersive learning experience with Moodle.

Next you need the secure tool URL, the consumer key and the shared secret all of which you simply copy and paste from Near-Life. Those are the three things that you really need, apart from the activity name. And then you can just save the display. And there you go. Super easy.

The benefits of using the LTI is that any changes that you make in Near-Life, you don’t have to go back into Moodle and update it because it’s a live connection. So anything you do here automatically updates in Moodle. If you do if you use SCORM you’ve got to download your SCORM zip, upload the file and republish the course – you do away with that when you use LTI. And then in terms of how the experience displays, all of those settings are in Moodle and they’re really easy to change. And that is basically it. It works with VR as well. So you don’t have to export any packages. It’s not complicated at all. It’s super easy. So we love LTI for that very reason.

Key considerations

You’ve seen kind of some examples there of immersive learning and some ideas around why it works plus some of the use cases. Let’s try and summarize some key considerations, if you’re thinking about adopting an immersive learning approach:

  • Learning outcomes –  I talked about the story workshop that we we do as an approach when we consulted on these type of things. Really, you want to be able to map the interactivity or the immersive project to the to the outcome. So the experience is very, very much grounded in what you’re trying to do. Maybe stating the obvious there. But you know, just just worth reiterating.
  • Rich data – And then you’ve got the opportunity to capture rich data, you’ve got a pass/fail, yes, has someone completed it, but maybe you’re gonna have scoring maybe something more complex around the achievements and conditions, some kind of game-based activity. So understanding how you measure success, build that into the design.
  • Media – What can you realistically create? Is it going to be just video that was created with a tool like Vyond or Synthesia, using even Canva, with stock footage, or Slides, or PowerPoint?  You can use all these things to create immersive projects. It’s just down to how much time you’ve got, what budget do you have? And at the further end of the spectrum, you could be using actors like the WHO example with full VR.
  • Technical approach – We’re showing you how our tool works, obviously, because that’s what we use. We also have a relationship with Moodle, where we’re a partner, but you should always think these things through and get the right approach for you.
  • Integration – how it will be shared? And again, if you’re a Moodle user, there’s obviously a straightforward way which we’ve shown, but there are other ways, but it’s worth understanding the end result from the outset.

Click here to learn more about how interactive learning content made with Near-Life is used in Moodle, or book a demo to speak with one of our team.


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