Advances in immersive virtual reality (IVR) are creating more computer-supported collaborative learning environments, but there is little research explicating how collaboration in IVR impacts learning. We ran a quasi-experimental study with 80 participants targeting ocean literacy learning, varying the manner in which participants interacted in IVR to investigate how the design of collaborative IVR experiences influences learning. Results are discussed through the lens of collaborative cognitive learning theory. Participants that collaborated to actively build a new environment in IVR scored higher for learning than participants who only watched an instructional guide’s avatar, or participants who watched the guide’s avatar and subsequently discussed what they learned while in IVR. Moreover, feeling negative emotions, feeling active in the environment, and feeling bonded to the group members negatively correlated with learning. Results shed light on the mechanisms behind how collaborative tasks in IVR can support learning.