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Immersive Learning Knowledge Tree

Growing the evidence for "what works" in Immersive Learning

Calling Researchers in Computer Science, Game Design, UX, the Learning Sciences, and all areas for applying Immersive Learning in context: Please participate in the design, development, and growth of the body of evidence around "what works" for Immersive Learning. Contribute to The Knowledge Tree!

Two questions worth answering: Why? and How? (from iLRN's 2017 International Conference address):

“Why should people collaborate and share their knowledge of what works?”

“How might that work in ways that benefit people – particularly those involved in doing the work?”

We would like to engage you, the iLRN audience in the prospect of how and why you should work with iLRN to realize this vision of serving humanity by identifying what works, mapping it out, and providing people with clear access and understanding of how to contribute to and use immersive learning environments most effectively. iLRN, as an organization, recognizes that we need to better define what, indeed “immersive learning” really is, and we recognize that, because the contributions being made to emerging disciplinary areas come from a wide range of professional, scholarly, and other human dimensions of activity, we need to build meaningful “bridges” and techniques for working across these disciplines on common problems

The scope and impact of immersive learning environments is just beginning to be realized and iLRN is perhaps uniquely positioned as a mechanism for open access and scholarship. Innovation and effort, is of course, of paramount importance. Our theme for (the) year’s 2017 iLRN Conference was “Grounded in Tradition, Immersed in the Future”. It’s in deference to our fantastic location for the conference in Coimbra, Portugal, home of Universidade de Coimbra – a lovely place of learning, generally known as the 10th most venerable academic institution in the world – and our obvious connection to the fast-changing nature of learning because of these new innovative situated ecological learning capabilities.

Scholarship in the Middle Ages grew slowly from a conceptual framework that proposed a set of building blocks upon which the rest of rational thought could be constructed. The fact that it emerged and grew at all is quite remarkable. These scholars must have faced tremendous confusion, resistance, and political and financial obstacles. Yet they did it and they thrived by agreeing on a set of principles and collaborating over time to refine them.

The “Trivium” of logic, grammar, and rhetoric were the three basic building blocks for higher learning – the foundational three of the seven Liberal Arts. The Trivium’s power rested on its consideration for how ideas entered, were processed, and exited the human mind. These “inputs, processes, and outputs” taught, essentially, critical thinking. When students had mastered the ability to that – taking information of any kind and carefully considering it through those lenses, that then led to the other four – the “Quadrivium”, of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy.

Similarly, iLRN proposes, as a means to bring together the disparate scholarly and professional fields together to work together on this shared problem set of “Immersive Learning” to use three foundational building blocks that scholars must seriously consider and understand for Immersive Learning Environments to “work”, that is: (1) Computer Science, (2) Game Design, and (3) the Learning Sciences. These three areas of human scholarship and applied understanding, though not easily understood as input-process-output are all essential to creating, researching, and evaluating Immersive Learning experiences of all kinds. From this tripartite foundation, the applied areas of “what works” in Immersive Learning may be deliberated on.

Drawing on sensory, actional, and symbolic factors, Immersive Learning Environments digitally replicate the experience of location. Research has conclusively demonstrated that Immersive Learning can (4) Provide multiple perspectives; (5) Enhance or highlight key features (invisible, abstract, obscure) of ecologically complex systems; (6) Situate the learner; and (7) Enable transfer of difficult-to-understand information (Dede, 2009). These are the areas of evidence for why we should invest in immersive learning – why the expenditure of great time, money, and expertise is worth it. These are the proposed four areas of the Immersive “Quadrivium”.

To operationalize this foundational framework, iLRN is launching a dedicated set of tools and services for scholars, developers, and professionals around the world that will support and extend these ideas:

  1. Build a knowledge base, (the iLRN Knowledge Tree)
  2. Collaborate on complex problems
  3. Identify the Pattern Language of Immersive Learning
  4. Showcase applications in applied contexts

  5. Finally, in addition to mapping the landscape of “what we know” and creating a scholarly interchange for immersive learning across the foundational and applied areas where immersive learning is illuminating key understandings and phenomena, iLRN also proposes to

  6. Monitor and integrate innovation and change across the emerging landscape

Our new Environmental Scanning project will provide focus and timeliness to our work – giving context to the research by showcasing how things are changing through publication of our Annual State of Immersive Learning Report, beginning this year (2017). [note: it took a few years, to Spring 2020 before the initial report was finally published. Access and read our inaugural report from the iLRN Resources page].

Join us and let’s scan the horizon, map the territory, and create new worlds.

Excerpted from Immersive Learning Research: A Proposed Design for an Open Networked Global Community Effort (Richter, J, 2017)


Be part of the pioneering effort of systematization of knowledge in the field of Immersive Learning Research. This interdisciplinary research field is scattered. An effort for its systematization will attempt to unify a diversity of perspectives and approaches for the purpose of mapping and understanding the field and facilitating researchers with tools to communicate and coordinate effectively.

We call upon the community of immersive learning researchers to be a part of planting the Immersive Learning Knowledge Tree, a conceptual framework for a systematization effort for this field, combining both scholarly and practical knowledge. Its purpose is to cultivate a robust and growing knowledge base and methodological toolbox for immersive learning, to promote evidence-informed practice and guiding future research related to immersive learning, along three objectives:

  1. Developing common scientific terminology amidst the community of researchers;
  2. Cultivating a common understanding of methodology;
  3. Advancing common use of theoretical approaches, frameworks, and models.

Current Immersive Learning Knowledge Tree Projects

The Knowledge Tree’s structure has been proposed to include: Soil, Roots, Trunk, Branches, Leaves, and Birds (Fig. 1). Initiatives will be showcased online by The Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), and authors are engaged through participation in special conference sessions/tracks and submission to special issues on this topic. Sought after works include: (a) scoping and systematic reviews on a diverse range of immersive learning constructs and concepts; (b) developing or contributing to ontologies and related taxonomies for capturing empirical research on the relationships between constructs identified in scoping reviews and syntheses of findings; (c) conceptual models to channel future research efforts toward a shared framework and agenda; (d) methodologies and instruments for conducting research; (e) community mapping and scientometrics, etc.

Practical knowledge sources are also important for the systemization of an applied field. Possible initiatives include (a) evidence repositories based on taxonomic frameworks and conceptual data models, enabling the derivation of evidence-based design principles, guidelines, and best practices for engaging, effective and efficient learning experiences; (b) community-curated collections of exemplars embodying and demonstrating the operationalization of the principles, guidelines, and best practices; (c) how-to documents, guidelines, references to resources, theoretical foundations, practical examples, existing tools, services – to assist educators and developers in implementation.

The FINAL deadline for accepted proposals will be Fall 2022 (October 1).

Please submit your proposal via this form, including:

  1. Area of the KT to be addressed (soil, roots, trunk, branches, leaves, birds);
  2. Short description of how your proposed project will fit in that specific area of the KT; and description of your methods, 
  3. Relevant citations to past KT scholarship or other projects; 
  4. Description of resources you will utilize to complete your project and timeline to complete your project.

Please contact us with any questions or inquires on this iLRN Knowledge Tree project.

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