Researcher receives grant to examine student impact of immersive experiences

Marjorie S. Miller
April 02, 2019

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Melina Czymoniewicz-Klippel, assistant teaching professor of biobehavioral health, has received a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) grant from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence for the project “Life Boats and Life Decisions: Engaging Online Biobehavioral Health Students through Immersive Experiences.”

Czymoniewicz-Klippel’s project will involve analysis of online written assignments asked of students enrolled in the Penn State World Campus section of the course Values and Ethics in Biobehavioral Health Research and Practice (BBH 301) to examine the impact of immersive experiences on student engagement and learning. 

“There is little scientific evidence outlining the value of having students engage in immersive experiences as a way to enhance their learning,” Czymoniewicz-Klippel said. “In particular, the evidence base on the use of 360 videos, which are nowadays widely available via public sites such as YouTube, in higher educational settings is extremely thin. Our study seeks to redress this situation by exploring links between 360 video use and student engagement. I am very excited and appreciative to have the opportunity to contribute to the breaking of such new scholarly ground.”

360 videos are created in the Immersive Experiences Lab (IMEX), part of Penn State’s Media Commons. The IMEX Lab offers the use of several 360 video cameras kits along with high end editing stations with specialized software. View an example of a 360 video here.

Czymoniewicz-Klippel is working with a team of collaborators, including Laura Cruz, Deena Levy and Charles Brua from the Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence. Together, the team hopes to identify some initial trends with regards to the value of using 360 videos to engage online students in complex discussions around values and ethics in healthcare. 

In particular, they want to see whether engaging with 360 videos as part of various online writing assignments promotes students' engagement with not only technology-mediated learning, but also ethical decision-making (both individually and collective). 

“It is easy for online students to become disconnected from their learning experience, partially due to the lack of regular face-to-face connection with their teachers and peers,” she said. “As such, it is crucial that instructors make specific efforts to encourage students to be, and stay, engaged in the course material throughout the semester. Through this research we are hoping to find that 360 videos are indeed a useful tool that online instructors can draw on to promote student engagement.”

Students who enroll in BBH 301 will be invited to participate in the study at the start of the semester. All will complete their required course assignments; some will also be provided with low-cost cardboard viewers and asked to watch view 360 videos that complement the course material. 

In the analysis, the research team will be looking to see whether or not engagement with these videos boosts students' ability to, for example, identify ethical issues, apply appropriate ethical frameworks, and make sound and informed ethical decisions when engaging in case study work.

“Over recent months, my colleagues in the Department of Biobehavioral Health and the College of Health and Human Development have been wonderful cheerleaders in my pursuit of this line of research. From providing general encouragement, to assisting our research team to answer technical questions about 360 videos, I have felt very supported,” Czymoniewicz-Klippelsaid. 

“The possibilities for ways in which immersive experiences can be used to promote educational effectiveness currently seem endless,” she said. “Over the coming years I can envisage immersive experiences becoming far more integrated across the Biobehavioral Health and Penn State curriculum. For example, my background is in global health. Exposing undergraduate students who, for various reasons, do not have the opportunity to travel during their undergraduate years to the health issues of low-income settings via ‘virtual fieldwork’ is, to me, such an exciting possibility.”

The Schreyer Institute for Teaching Excellence SoTL grant program seeks faculty interested in conducting course-based, evidence-based, action-based, and classroom research at Penn State.

The purpose of the program is to promote contributions to the published SoTL literature by Penn State faculty about Penn State teaching and learning. For more information visit

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Last Updated April 09, 2019