At Scale Immersive Learning ‘Events’

There is growing consensus that didactic lectures are primarily a thing of the past and more active and collaborative delivery methods provide deeper and long lasting learning. In this blog post, Peter Bryant (Jan, 2022) details the causes and effects of magnification and multiplication in higher education. Bryant describes solutions such as Connected Learning as a way forward for effective, quality at-scale delivery. Many amongst us are now chunking up content and delivering it via media and interactive tools (Bryant, May 2021).

Interactivity in lectures and large-scale teaching is a catch-all phrase used to describe teaching activities as diverse as flipped learning, the use of personal response systems, and problem-based learning. Interactivity by design affords the learner opportunities for a deeper engagement with the knowledge and skills in a unit of study. Interactivity needs to transcend the superficial (Q&A, polling etc.) by drawing on the benefits of sociality, active learning and connection. As such, genuine interactivity can create spaces for collaboration, application and criticality. Large lectures struggle to enable the delivery of these ambitions as the dominant pedagogy remains didactic broadcast, with spaces designed specifically to enable that type of teaching. 

If we remove broadcast content from the timetable and replace it with online content delivery, do students feel like they are missing this crucial opportunity to connect? What alternatives can we offer students to interact with industry and academic experts, work on challenges that motivate them, and have fun along the way?

Also, what to do with these empty learning spaces? It’s no easy or cheap fix to repurpose the infrastructure of a lecture theatre. Better to reimagine what we can do in these spaces to deliver an immersive and interactive learning experience (Ellis & Goodyear, 2016).

This semester the University of Sydney Business School has been piloting some ideas in response to these issues in our Leading in a Post-Crisis World (LPC) units. We present these approaches here for your input in order to further develop them.

Event 1 – An ethical dilemma              

The first LPC live event focused on ethical dilemmas and decision-making. We developed a performance-based branching scenario for students to explore three ethical frameworks: consequentialism, virtue and duty.

Actors performing in the first LPC live event. Left to right: Paul Goddard, Jo Briant and May Lloyd.

We collaborated with organisational theatre practitioner, May Lloyd, who both wrote and performed in this event. Together, we researched a topical, ethical dilemma and adapted our findings into an interactive narrative with multiple possible outcomes. Three actors each embodied one of the frameworks and worked to solve the ethical dilemma across three scenes.

In scene 1, students were introduced to the characters, their dilemma and their group dynamic. With this information, students joined groups to discuss the problem and vote on which framework the actors should implement in scene 2.

Mentimeter was used for students to vote on the direction of the live branching scenario.

In the context of the chosen framework, the actors then arrived at two possible solutions to resolve their dilemma. For example, if students voted on consequentialism, then the two solutions proposed would also be based on this framework.

Students voted again on their preferred solution which informed the final scene. This scene involved the actors putting together a presentation that they would use to pitch for funding. As they are doing this, the actors reiterate the ethical frameworks and the complexity of making and presenting these sorts of decisions.

The event concludes with the facilitator posing the question: Having seen how the dilemma plays out, would you have picked a different ethical framework at the beginning?

Event 2 – Artificial intelligence in leadership

The second event in this three-part series explored the future of artificial intelligence and its impact on future leaders. We brought together four panelists, each with a unique perspective on the application of artificial intelligence in business and leadership. This group included a science and technology journalist, an educational developer, an editor of Honi Soit and an artificial intelligence specialist. As well as providing individual input on the topic, this diverse panel initiated robust discussion for students to consider in their groups.

Students were provided with a scenario to consider as future leaders and to discuss with their peers.

Scenario: You’ve just landed your first job after graduation. It’s your dream job! You find out when you start that all your work and decision-making will be run through an AI bot to verify your choices. Would you stay or leave?

While students were debating this scenario, we threw them a curveball.

BUT WAIT, you discover that the AI bot will actually be your new boss. Does that change anything?

Following these discussions, students shared back to the wider group and the panelists were asked to respond to the same scenario. The whole group then voted on what action they would take based on these prompts.

To round out the artificial intelligence focus, we created an AI avatar that opened the event and after ‘technical malfunctions’ had to drop out. Students then guessed if they thought this new ‘host’ was real or fake.

Event 3 – Crowdsourcing student challenges 

For the final LPC live event, we crowdsourced student feedback on major challenges associated with student accommodation. This feedback was collected two weeks ahead of time and the top challenge was voted on and formed the basis of our event. Two members of the University of Sydney Student Representative Council (SRC) were our guest presenters.

The SRC participants opened the event by sharing the accommodation challenges they hear about from students in their roles. Students joined groups to brainstorm solutions to this challenge and shared them on a discussion board. Students thenvoted on the top three solutions and the guest presenters selected one to discuss.

Padlet used to capture students responses.

In groups, students compiled a list of action items to enact this solution. Students framed their solutions around the following prompts: political, commercial, economic, community or personal. Students shared their action items with the larger group and were asked to provide one thing they could do today to expedite this solution.


For more on the underpinning design ideas for Connected Learning spaces, see this post on an ecosystem approach (Bryant, Aug, 2022).


Feature image: Photo by Hasan Albari

About the author

Stacey Petersen works as a Digital Learning Designer in the Business Co-Design team, building sustainable Connected Learning at Scale (CLaS) units that bring engaging digital learning experiences to students. With a background in communications, distilling information and transforming it into something meaningful to the receiver is something that informs all aspects of both her life and learning design practice.

Andrew Brock is a Senior Learning Designer with the Business Co-Design team, in the Business School at the University of Sydney.

Associate Professor Elaine Huber has been designing curriculum and teaching adults for over 20 years and is currently the Academic Director of the Business Co-Design team at the University of Sydney.

One thought on “At Scale Immersive Learning ‘Events’

  1. Tom Worthington – Canberra – An educational technology consultant, Certified Professional member of the Australian Computer Society, and part time university lecturer.
    Tom Worthington says:

    Didactic lectures have not been a primary part of learning, at least since the invention of writing. We can offer alternative ways to interact, but mostly with each other. Long term interaction with industry and academic experts is not cost effective.

    Lecture theatres can be modified to provide hybrid spaces, with part flat floor, and part stepped, like a TV studio. https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2022/10/chat-show-format-for-live-from.html

    However, most teaching is online. It was already online before COVID-19. To supplement that we mostly need flat floor teaching spaces. https://blog.highereducationwhisperer.com/2022/09/active-learning-spaces-require-active.html

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