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Immersive Learning: Beyond Textbooks

Creative, innovative, transforming…these words describe our immersive learning culture. As a cornerstone of a Ball State education, these challenging educational experiences take students outside the classroom and into the real world. Students emerge prepared take on a workplace filled with global competition and constant change.

Here are some examples that highlight our outcome measures from the Strategic Plan 2007-2012.

Expanding the Depth and Breadth of Immersive Learning

Recognizing the profound positive influence immersive learning experiences have on students, our colleges and academic departments are expanding the number and breadth of immersive learning opportunities. Here are just a few examples of recent and planned projects:

  • Building on a project from spring 2007, a group of advertising, computer science, and telecommunications students will delve more deeply into the concept of interactive television (iTV) in spring 2008. Students will look at the effectiveness of the interface, integrate interactive advertising, develop a scaled-version for iPhone, and begin developing new designs for future testing.
  • A group of computer science and business students and faculty members worked with BAA-Indianapolis, the company that operates the Indianapolis International Airport, to conduct an analysis of the technological infrastructure of the airport. The students focused on potential applications of cluster computer technology and prepared a plan for continuous availability of computer resources, even in an emergency.
  • The College of Applied Sciences and Technology is developing a college-wide project that will connect students with area companies. As Health Fellows, students will work on consulting teams that will perform health, wellness, and safety audits for participating companies and produce action plans that will prioritize steps to improve the health of workers, the productivity of the organization, and the well-being of the neighboring community. 
  • Virginia Ball CenterAs part of a seminar at the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry, a group of English, psychology, and music technology students researched and produced a documentary film exploring the role of successful women’s sports programs in shaping the expectations of young female athletes. The Expectation of Excellence encouraged students to explore the issues of gender and the marginalization of certain sports in an environment where teams compete for funding, recognition, and respect from the community. 
  • The Miller College of BusinessThe Miller College of Business is partnering with the Vera Bradley Company—maker of distinctive quilted cotton luggage, handbags, and accessories. During the fall 2007 semester, students learned and applied marketing and management concepts and techniques through interactive team projects with the Fort Wayne, Indiana-based company. The students created plans for publicity, events, and media for the grand opening of three new Vera Bradley signature retail stores.
  • A group of journalism, historic preservation, and marketing students is working with the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana to raise awareness about endangered landmarks around the state. Using the latest technology and multimedia content, students will produce virtual tours, videos, and interactive Web sites to help the public learn more about the campaign to save these structures.

Goal 1, Objective B: By 2012, all departments will offer immersive learning experiences for each graduate.

Increasing Student Participation

Immersive learning opportunities for students are growing, thanks to the generous support from funding partners and the creative ideas and collaborative nature of our faculty members who see the positive impact these experiences have on students. In 2006–07, nearly 1,700 students took part in immersive learning experiences, and the number is continuing to rise.

Goal 1, Objective B: Increase by 10 percent per year the number of students participating in immersive learning experiences.

Support for Immersive Learning

The end product of immersive learning is that our graduates move into careers with skills beyond textbook learning. Not only do they have a strong intellectual knowledge base, they know how to work with others and how to drive projects to completion. They’ve been engaged in real-world problems with real budgets and deadlines. They know how to develop priorities in a team, how to lead a team, and how to collaborate as a team member. That brings results to society and to Ball State’s partners.

Foundations and philanthropists have been pioneers in supporting immersive learning.

Seven years ago, gifts from Virginia B. Ball and the Edmund F. and Virginia B. Ball Foundation helped to establish the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry with a founding gift of $2 million and, in recent years, additional support totaling $400,000. The Ball Brothers Foundation has also supported the one-of-a-kind center—which is a hub of immersive learning—with $400,000. In the fall of 2007, the George and Frances Ball Foundation provided a $6.5 million gift specifically to help make immersive learning an intrinsic element of every degree. Also, Phyllis and Hamer Shafer Foundation supported immersive learning with a $1 million gift this year.

The Lilly Endowment Inc. has a history of strong sponsorship, pledging $53 million over the last 10 years, including a recent $20 million grant that enabled the university to create four digital learning institutes, helping to make immersive learning pervasive.

Goal 1, Objective B: Provide each undergraduate with the opportunity to participate in an immersive learning experience.