Defining Immersive Learning




immersion, high-impact practices, multidisciplinary, pedagogy, engaged learning


Immersive learning practices (ILPs) in higher education are multidisciplinary in nature and varied in levels of integration into the student learning process. They appear in a variety of higher education programs such as teacher education, social work, law, and health sciences, and in practices such as service-learning, study away, internships, and foreign-language instruction. Based on observations of teaching and data from an open-ended survey and semi-structured interviews with post-secondary educators from three different countries, this study theorizes that immersive learning practices are composed of six distinct underlying theoretical components that work in combination. These six components can be used to describe, define, compare, and design different types of structured ILPs. This study suggests that ILPs are pedagogically distinct from other forms of engaged and experiential learning.

Read the corresponding ISSOTL blog post here.


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Author Biographies

Phillip Motley, Elon University

Phillip Motley (USA) is professor of communication design and faculty fellow for community-based learning at Elon University. From 2019–2021, he was Elon’s Center for Engaged Learning Scholar, focusing on immersive learning. His research interests include design and studio-based learning, community-engaged pedagogies, and immersive learning practices.

Beth Archer-Kuhn, University of Calgary

Beth Archer-Kuhn (CAN) is an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Work at the University of Calgary. She is co-author of “Reigniting Curiosity and Inquiry in Higher Education: A Realist’s Guide to Getting Started with IBL.”

Catharine Dishke Hondzel, Lambton College

Catharine Dishke Hondzel (CAN) is the dean of academic excellence and teaching innovation at Lambton College. Her background is in educational psychology with a focus on faculty development, experiential learning, and the scholarship of teaching and learning.

Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, Purdue University

Jennifer Dobbs-Oates (USA) is associate vice provost for world readiness and a clinical professor of human development and family science at Purdue University. Her current work is dedicated to undergraduate education approaches that promote student transformation and success after graduation, including experiential education and immersive learning.

Michelle Eady, University of Wollongong

Michelle Eady (AUS) is professor of curriculum and pedagogy in the School of Education at the University of Wollongong. She is the president (2023–2025) of the International Society for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and is an ISSOTL and HERDSA fellow, a senior fellow of the HEA, and holds a national teaching citation for her work in quality teacher preparation.

Janel Seeley, University of Wyoming

Janel Seeley (USA) is the director of the Ellbogen Center for Teaching and Learning at the University of Wyoming. Her doctorate is in educational psychology and her scholarly interests include SOTL, educational development, and reflective dialogue.

Rosemary Tyrrell, University of California-Riverside School of Medicine

Rosemary Tyrrell (USA) is the director of the Office of Faculty Development and an assistant professor of social medicine, population, and public health at the University of California Riverside School of Medicine. Her current research interests include assessment of teaching, immersive learning in medical education, and the use of AI to improve test item quality.


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How to Cite

Motley, Phillip, Beth Archer-Kuhn, Catharine Dishke Hondzel, Jennifer Dobbs-Oates, Michelle Eady, Janel Seeley, and Rosemary Tyrrell. 2024. “Defining Immersive Learning”. Teaching and Learning Inquiry 12 (March):1–25.