Immerse Yourself to Learn Yourself

Aug 19, 2020

Hands-on, active learning has been a part of my education since high school, and I didn’t even realize it until it was labeled as Immersive Learning at William Peace University. At Peace, faculty and staff use real and created environments to immerse all students into a place where they can practice their knowledge through real-world activities.

Being homeschooled up until college, I had to immerse myself in my community to learn in a more hands-on environment. Sitting in my house all day didn’t exactly trigger my brain to want to learn. But, when I went out and practiced my knowledge with other peers, I was much more successful as a student.

When I came to Peace, I kept the same mentality of seeking learning opportunities that were not just limited to a classroom. Throughout my four years here, I’ve had multiple learning experiences where I was not just listening to a lecture or watching a 50-slide PowerPoint.

Instead, I was outside of the classroom, interacting with my peers, project clients, community members, and other professionals. Whether it was walking downtown to collect footage for a collaborative film project or volunteering at the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, I have been learning in so many interactive ways.

Immersive Learning on Campus

The definition of immersive is, “providing, involving, or characterized by deep absorption or immersion in something (such as an activity or a real or artificial environment).”

The Center for Immersive Learning at Peace does exactly that. The new collaborative space on the second floor of the Lucy Cooper Finch Library is the perfect atmosphere for students to learn in a more active environment as compared to the typical classroom. I have used the flexible space to collaborate on projects, meet with professors and project clients, and to record podcasts with classmates for our campus media publication.

But learning for me did not just happen on campus. Personally, I have experienced many hands-on opportunities to take what I’ve learned in the classroom and apply it in my real life outside of college. It has never been all about the lectures, quizzes, and tests. For me, it has been all about collaborative projects, group discussions, and hands-on activities that happen outside of the classroom. Through these activities, I have developed skills that I know will be useful in the real-world.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema PR Project

During my sophomore year, I was taking a Public Relations Techniques class, and we worked directly with the Creative Manager for Alamo Drafthouse Cinema to plan an on-campus event to promote their grand opening in Raleigh.

We never had a typical lecture-style class period. We either had a meeting with our client to discuss our plans, or we were working on creating posters for campus or content for social media. We even had to book auditorium space on campus and write press releases for the event. There was always active learning taking place outside of the classroom.

For the event, we showed “The Wiz” (1978), as it was a part of the “Identity Through The Lens” film series hosted by the English Department for Black History Month. We had refreshments and party favors to provide a similar experience as one would have at Alamo.

The event was successful, and our client was pleased with the turnout. After the semester ended, we were later publicly recognized for our work. We were awarded a 2018 Sir Walter Raleigh Award by the Raleigh Public Relations Society (RPRS) for our communications work.

This was an incredible learning opportunity as my entire class was able to network and build relationships with community partners. We were not just limited to the classroom, and we had real-life opportunities to put our knowledge to work in a professional setting.

Archaeology field trips

When I was in my junior year, I went with anthropology students and Anthropology assistant professor, Ms. Alexandra Daniels, to two different historical sites. The first was a local trip to Stagville Plantation in Durham, NC, while the other was a two-hour trip to Town Creek Indian Mound in Mount Gilead, NC.

Visiting Stagville Plantation was an amazing experience as I was able to immerse myself in the culture while hearing about the history of the site. It was interesting to learn, for instance, that Cameron Village was first constructed for those who were freed from slavery and named after the Cameron Plantation.

Even though the second trip was two hours away, it didn’t stop me from wanting to go. I was so excited to travel to Town Creek Indian Mound because it is a prehistoric site that is being preserved because of the importance of the Mississippian culture that once lived there.

When I was taking my archaeology class, I was especially happy with the fact that I learned the information in so many different ways. I remember watching a short video in class about making ceramics, and then I created and sculpted my own pottery when we went to Town Creek.

When I was visiting both of these sites, I almost felt as if I was there living in the culture. I walked around houses where people lived hundreds of years ago and sat around a pit where fires were once constructed to boil water to make meals.

Looking back, forward

Reflecting on these experiences makes me appreciate my journey at Peace more than anything because it wasn’t a typical class period for all of my classes throughout my career. I instead used my own time to      explore learning opportunities outside of class and in the real world to gain even more experience on how to apply my knowledge in other environments.

With graduation approaching in May, I find myself reflecting on my four years here, and I am so grateful for the opportunities Peace has given me. Even in my last semester, I’m Editor-in-Chief for the campus newspaper, The Peace Times, and in another class, I am, collaboratively, creating a news show as one of the reporters. These projects will help me decide my ultimate plan after graduation as I’m gaining real-world experience to determine if it’s a career path I want to pursue.

Without all of the collaborative projects, field trips, group discussions, and an internship program, I would not have learned everything I have in my short time here. I’m excited to apply all of my knowledge and skills in my future job because I know that Peace has prepared me for success in the real world.

Digital Edition

This blog was written by WPU alumna, Caylan Harris ’20 for PEACE Magazine. PEACE Magazine, the award-winning publication of William Peace University, published annually.
View the Spring 2020 digital issue