This last term, I have been taking the Immersive module, one of the Theatre & Performance modules currently offered by the department. While this is usually a second-year module, a few of us final-years were able to take it this year due to it being cancelled last year with the pandemic. I thought I would share a bit about my experience of the module and how I found it this term.
Immersive is currently an intensive summer term module, meaning the module runs the sessions in term three over less time compared to other modules. For example, this year the module only had classes until week 4, but had a mix of pre-recorded lectures to watch, in-person practical classes and online discussions. This meant that although the module had a shorter teaching span than most, we also had a bit more work and class time each week compared to my other modules this year. While this might pose a problem in other terms, because I had no other classes and very few other assessments in my third term this was manageable. The one downside to this was the crossover between practical dissertations and the module, as there were a few busy weeks, but this would not usually be a problem as the module hasn’t run for final year students before. Therefore, for most second-years taking this module the workload is quite manageable, and also means you have something to do in third term, which otherwise can be quite empty.
This year, the classes were a mix of online and in-person. Each week, a pre-recorded lecture would be uploaded, alongside a few short readings and an online padlet exercise where we could reflect on the content given. The module convenor, Tim, also linked all the other sources he mentioned in the lecture beneath the video, so if we were particularly interested in any aspect or wanted more clarification on something we could look through those for more information. On Fridays, we would have an online class on Teams where we could discuss the lecture and the issues raised by it. We would also look at everyone’s contributions to the padlet exercise and discuss these. For example, one week we were asked to post some visual and auditory illusions to the padlet, and talked about which ones we found most compelling.
Alongside these online classes, we had three practical sessions in-person in Millburn House. These were the first in-person classes I had been to since November, and they quickly became the highlight of my week. The class was split into two groups, which was beneficial as it allowed us to explore the elements fully without having to wait for any equipment to become available. My personal favourite week was the second week, where we got to play around with online systems that could potentially be used in creating an immersive piece, including getting to use VR headsets! This is something that I never would have experienced had I not taken this module, and I really enjoyed having the opportunity to use these.
We had two interconnected assessments for the module. The first was a practical immersive piece created in groups of our choosing, which was a really fun and creative way to apply everything we had covered in the module. For this, we could choose any space and create an immersive piece of our choosing. While most groups chose to use the studios, one of the groups used the allotments on campus and my group created an online piece, inspired by an online immersive show we had seen as part of the module. In past years, groups have also created work off-campus in spaces around Leamington Spa or in their homes, which shows the variety of work created. Every group made an incredibly different piece, ranging from sensory to scary to child-like. While I didn’t get to see any of the other groups due to ours needing to be run from our homes, I loved hearing about what everyone had created and seeing snapshots on social media, and the range of responses to the assessment was incredible. After this, our second assessment was to write a critical review, evaluating what we had created and how we had made it. This was a good way to get us thinking critically about our pieces and provided a nice end to the module, as we could look back on how far we had come and what more we could make.
While occasionally the crossover between Immersive and my practical dissertation made the module a bit stressful, I really enjoyed taking Immersive and would definitely encourage anyone given the opportunity to take it as well! Especially after more than a year being stuck inside having to work online, being given the opportunity to be experimenting and creating practically with people was incredibly fulfilling, and I am really grateful that I had the opportunity to take this module this year.