Introducing Immersive Reality into the Journalism Curriculum

Keywords: Virtual Reality, Immersive Reality, Heutagogy, Collaborative curriculum design


Following the introduction of the Google Cardboard virtual reality (VR) head mounted display (HMD) in 2014, mainstream journalism began exploring the potential of VR to transform news storytelling as an immersive experience (Lalwani, 2015; Somaiya, 2015). However, unlike the transformative impact of social media on journalism and journalism education (Mulrennan, 2017), VR has taken several years for this to filter into the curriculum of journalism higher education. AUT’s journalism programme includes a final semester, capstone, assessment in which students produce a piece of long-form immersive journalism that provides the opportunity to embed VR storytelling as an authentic immersive experience. To address this we created a collaborative curriculum design team in 2019 to design a workshop (Sissons & Cochrane, 2019) to introduce journalism students to the potential of VR to explore and create an immersive journalism experience. We used a design based research methodology (McKenney & Reeves, 2019) to structure the curriculum design process into four phases: initial analysis and exploration, development of a prototype curriculum intervention, evaluation and redesign of the intervention, and dissemination of identified design principles and findings. Meeting weekly the design team brainstormed a workshop that mapped the affordances of mobile XR to a real world project, and created a simple demonstration XR environment ( We founded the workshop design upon the principles of heutagogy (Blaschke & Hase, 2019), as the principles of heutagogy map closely to the core journalism graduate profile outcomes (Cochrane, Sissons, & Mulrennan, 2017). In this workshop students worked in teams to film and compile an interactive experience based on the University’s Journalism Media Centre, creating an interactive tour using SeekBeak ( Using AUTEC ethics processes we obtained informed consent from the participating students for a feedback survey that will inform the second phase redesign of the curriculum design for 2020. Anonymous post-workshop student feedback survey responses, with a 78% return rate ( were very positive. We believe this collaborative curriculum design approach provides a simple model that can be utilised in other higher education discipline contexts.



Blaschke, L. M., & Hase, S. (2019). Heutagogy and digital media networks: Setting students on the path to lifelong learning. Pacific Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 1(1), 1-14. doi:

Cochrane, T., Sissons, H., & Mulrennan, D. (2017). Mainstreaming Mobile Learning in Journalism Education. In H. Crompton & J. Traxler (Eds.), Mobile Learning in Higher Education: Challenges in Context (pp. 19-30). New York: Routledge.

Lalwani, M. (2015). ABC News introduces VR initiative with 360-degree tour of Syria. Retrieved from

McKenney, S., & Reeves, T. (2019). Conducting educational design research (2nd ed.). London: Routledge.

Mulrennan, D. (2017). Mobile Social Media and the News: Where Heutagogy Enables Journalism Education. Journalism & Mass Communication Educator, OnlineFirst(0), 1-12. doi:10.1177/1077695817720762

Sissons, H., & Cochrane, T. (2019). Newsroom Production: XRJournalism Workshop. Retrieved from

Somaiya, R. (2015, 20 October 2015). The Times partners with Google on virtual reality project. Retrieved from


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Author Biography

Thomas Cochrane, CfLAT, Auckland University of Technology

Dr Thomas Cochrane is an Academic Advisor and Senior Lecturer in educational Technology at AUT University's Centre for Learning and Teaching (CfLAT). In 2011 he was awarded as an Ascilite Fellow His research interests include mobile learning, web 2.0, communities of practice, and the scholarship of technology enhanced learning (SOTEL). His PHD thesis was titled: "Mobilizing Learning: Transforming pedagogy with mobile web 2.0". Thomas has managed and implemented over 50 mobile learning projects, with a recent focus upon Android and iOS smartphones and the iPad as catalysts to enable student-generated content and student-generated learning contexts, bridging formal and informal learning environments. Thomas has a peer-reviewed research portfolio spanning 45 journal articles, 29 book chapters, and over 120 conference proceedings (, receiving best paper awards at Ascilite 2009, ALT-C 2011, ALT-C 2012. He has been invited to keynote at several international educational technology conferences including: the 2012 Australian Moodle Moot, the 2012 m-Libraries conference in the UK, the launch of UWS massive iPad project in February 2013, the 2014 IBSA VET Practitioners Conference in Melbourne, and an invited speaker at EdMedia2014 (Tampere, Finland), and an Educator In Residence at the Disruptive Media Learning Lab, Coventry University in September 2015. Thomas was an invited keynote at the University of Western Australia’s Mlearning Summit in September 2015. Thomas was an invited keynote at the University of Western Australia’s Mlearning Summit in September 2016. In 2017 he was a member of the team winning the AUT Vice Chancellor’s Teaching Excellence, Teaching Innovation Award.

Thomas is an AJET Associate Editor, an editorial board member of RLT, BJET, and IJMBL, and the coordinator of the Ascilite Mobile Learning Special Interest Group. He is a regular reviewer for a number of educational technology journals including: AJET, CHB, IJMBL, JCHE, UAIS, and TLT. Thomas is also one of the first SCMALT holders (Senior Certified Member of the Association for Learning Technology).

How to Cite
Sissons, H., & Cochrane, T. (2019). Introducing Immersive Reality into the Journalism Curriculum. Pacific Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, 2(1), 7.
SOTEL2020 Symposium