Book Review, Immersive Learning: Designing for Authentic Practice

Immersive Learning: Designing for Authentic Practice by Koreen Olbrish Pagano highlights elements of learning in order to improve performance and change behaviour. This book puts forward the notion that knowledge acquisition does not improve skill performance. In order to enable learners to develop their skills they require opportunities that support them to practice these skills. Immersive learning engages the learning to utilise cognitive, emotional and psychomotor skills simultaneously in context. 

The book is divided into four sections.

The first few chapters introduce the framework of immersive learning and how it is underpinned by learning theories, how technology has influenced immersive learning development and the general characteristics of immersive learning. Three design principles are identified: Realism– how the environment is designed to be authentic. Achievement– how the learner can measure their performance in the environment and Presence– the extent to which the learner is connected with the learning environment.

The concept of immersive learning is situated in a number of different modalities: games (simple or technological), simulations, role plays, computer generated augmented reality, virtual worlds, and education via mobile devices or mobile learning. The author does not focus on the technology or method explicitly; however, she highlights the design principles of these applications that allow the learner to apply knowledge, practice in the context that they need to learn from and improve their skills performance by doing.

Games, simulations, virtual worlds, alternate reality games (ARGs), and 3-D immersive environments are discussed with explanations and how immersive learning design can be imbedded in these mediums. The author provides a simple framework for immersive design.  While highlighting that analysis is ongoing throughout the immersive learning-design process, three levels of design decisions are discussed to guide the designer.

These are:

  1. Define your learning and performance objectives focusing on what the learner should be able to do following the method used.
  2. Create the learning environment in which you intend the learner to be immersed.
  3. Performance metrics- how you intend to measure the learner’s achievement of the intended learning objectives.

The application of the Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation and Evaluation Model (ADDIE) is discussed in relation to the design and construction of learning environments.

The last few chapters provide very practical advice for implementing immersive learning experiences. The book uses a number of different professional disciplines as examples in design and details a number of case studies that demonstrate how various organisations can implement immersive learning to change workplace and performance behaviours. These illustrate the extensive capacity in which immersive learning can be applied.

In the final wrap up the author provides a very helpful step by step guide on how to design immersive learning in an organisation in order to change behaviours.

Overall, this is a helpful and easy to read guide for an educationist from any industry to design authentic practice experiences for learners with the aim to change behaviour and performance and measure it.  


Adele Callaghan.  RN, BN, Grad.Cert. Periop., Grad.Dip.M'ment, Grad.Dip.Ed.,MEd.,PhD Candidate.

Senior Lecturer-Clinical and Simulation and HDR student

Clinical Skills & Simulation Centre, Bendigo Regional Clinical School, Monash University

PO Box 666, Bendigo Central Post Office, Vic 3552

26 Mercy Street, Bendigo Vic 3550


Review of "The Simulated Patient Handbook : A Comprehensive Guide for Facilitators and Simulated Patient", by Fiona Dudley.

Dudley, Fiona

The Simulated Patient Handbook

Radcliffe Publishing 2012

The author, Fiona Dudley, is an occupational therapist who works as a simulated patient (SP) in the UK. She wrote this book based largely on her own experiences. She uses a conversational tone rather than an academic voice, with the inclusion of many exclamation marks and humorous cartoons, so it’s an easy read. There are some direct quotes from SPs that are very insightful although they are somewhat awkwardly placed, making it hard to tell them apart from the main text.

The target audience for this book are largely readers new to having SPs involved in the teaching of consultation/communication/non-technical skills, and new SPs themselves.  The emphasis is definitely on consultation skills with only small reference to SPs in examination scenarios. The cultural context is not Australian, so there are some assumptions made about the SP workforce that need to be sifted through being before applied here.

The book is divided into four parts: background on the work of simulated patients and the importance of consultation skills training; preparing simulated patients and scenarios; managing education sessions; and simulated patients in assessment and for other purposes.

There are also seven appendices: common terms used in a consultation (for SPs), sample scenarios, resources for role development, a list of mood ‘indicators’ or signs, communication skills teaching models, The Six Hats (Edward de Bono) Method for large group discussion, and suggested further reading. The book finishes with a useful index.

The main emphasis of the text is on the preparation and training needed for simulation scenarios. It discusses how SPs and facilitators can establish an SP role and vary it, and the importance of ‘de-roling’ for SPs. There are also good pointers on how to giving appropriate feedback, including models of feedback and the need to train SPs in this art.

Other chapters include how to write a scenario (with example template), the simulated patient as teacher, SPs in assessment, diverse situations for SP roles (e.g. for personnel recruitment), and the challenges for SPs and instructors. One of the final sections is an eclectic chapter on ‘any other business!’ that includes how to keep people safe, and general trouble-shooting issues.

To me, the most useful section was that on teaching methodology (Chapter 9: The consultation) with interesting and practical ideas on how to improve group dynamics, and different styles of running a session. There were important points on how to communicate with your SP during a session, using time-out or ‘freezing’ the consultation, managing more than one actor in a scenario (i.e., a carer or family), using a bilingual scenario, telephone consults, using a manikin-actor combination (hybrid scenario), and forum theatre (a method I had not heard of but will consider with interest).

This book would be a great asset to the new educator or simulated patient but also serves as a handy, practical guide for the more experienced.

 Pam Harvey

Monash University


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