Engaging, motivating and retaining built environment students in higher education: an immersive learning case study

This paper will examine the implementation of an immersive learning approach and how the delivery of a 20-credit module at Level 4 of study in this way affected the engagement, motivation and retention of students in higher education. The authors’ research is a longitudinal study of which this paper only presents the initial findings of after the first year, future years’ data will provide great evidence of the efficacy of the immersive approach.

Built Environment courses have a highly applied curriculum and the development of an active approach to immersive learning does two things; gives the learner the opportunity to interact with fellow learners in teams – building identity and belonging – and promotes the ability to develop active learning strategies in a low risk environment.

The immersive delivery of a 20-credit module focused on the start of the learning journey – the first six weeks of term – which is known to be a risk period for retention. The project aimed to build engagement and belonging through the development of effective relationships with other students and staff.

This six-week period also includes an element of summative assessment so that students receive early feedback on their learning. This focus on belonging, engagement and enhancement of learning are key elements of good practice which have emerged from the ‘What Works’ Project (Thomas, 2013).

The development of immersive learning as a means of providing effective early engagement is evidenced by Renard (2013) and De Freitas & Neumann (2009). Methods of data collection included quantitative and qualitative approaches, with results highlighting a positive response to learner satisfaction in learning, teaching, assessment as well as student belonging, engagement and self-confidence.

Read the next page in this section