The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN) connects educators, developers, and researchers to work together on developing the scientific, technical, and applied potential of immersive learning. New and emerging virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and other related technologies (collectively known as “XR”) present new opportunities for tackling some of the world’s most capacious and pressing societal, environmental, and economic problems; iLRN seeks to foster a global, interdisciplinary community of scholarship and practice, founded on the principles of open science and open design, aimed at leveraging these opportunities for the good of our planet and its inhabitants.
Central to iLRN’s mission and goals is developing and showcasing a rigorous evidence base of “what works” for facilitating effective and engaging experiences using XR and immersive technologies across the full span of learning—from K-12 through higher education to work-based, informal, and lifelong learning contexts. By offering resources, tools, and forums for experts to meet, share, and collaborate as well as by undertaking its own, strategically targeted research efforts, independently and in partnership with other organizations, iLRN strives to assist and promote the development of knowledge, skills, principles, and practices throughout the multitude of enterprises where the unique affordances of the technology may be powerfully harnessed to support and catalyze human learning and achievement.
iLRN has roots in a special interest group (SIG) of the American Educational Research Association (AERA) called ARIEL—Applied Research in Immersive Environments for Learning (founded in 2007 as ARVEL—Applied Research in Virtual Environments for Learning), which was responsible for organizing a Special Track at AERA’s annual conference. iLRN became an independent organization in 2014. In the fall of 2014, it ran an online symposium, hosted by the University of Oregon. Its inaugural in-person event was a Special Track that was part of the 11th International Conference on Intelligent Environments (IE’15) in Prague, Czech Republic in July 2015. Since then, iLRN’s annual conference has been a standalone event that has rotated between North America and Europe. It has quickly gained a reputation as the premier scholarly event focusing on advances in the use of VR/AR/MR (XR) and immersive technologies for supporting learners and learning across sectors and contexts.
To date, iLRN conferences have been held in Santa Barbara, California, USA (2016); Coimbra, Portugal (2017); Missoula, Montana, USA (2018); and London, UK (2019). The 6th Annual iLRN Conference was planned for June 2020 in San Luis Obispo, California, USA, but the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a pivot to an online-only format using our new iLRN Virtual Campus, powered by Virbela, along with a number of VR and other collaboration platforms. That conference attracted 3,600 registrants from across the globe, making it by far the largest conference in iLRN’s history. 2020 also marked the first time the conference was technically co-sponsored by the IEEE Education Society, enabling the proceedings to be submitted for inclusion in IEEE Xplore® Digital Library.
Following the success of iLRN 2020, the iLRN 2021 conference will once again take place online, on the iLRN Virtual Campus and across the Metaverse, and it will once again be technically co-sponsored by the IEEE Education Society. However, in contrast to previous years, activities will be spread over a four-week period so as to give attendees more opportunities to participate at times that are conducive to their local time zones.