Immersive virtual reality for children in formal education.

Belter, Meike

This PhD thesis explored the integration of virtual reality (VR) technology into formal education, specifically targeting school-aged children. While VR has gained traction primarily for entertainment, this study sought to harness its immersive potential for educational purposes within, for example, schools. Games have long been recognized as valuable tools for enhancing learning experiences. In recent years, schools have increasingly adopted them, particularly in subjects such as math. Not all learning methods and tools are inclusive to all learners. Common challenges for children in a school context are inattention and hyperactivity. VR, with its ability to create immersive and customizable environments, presents an intriguing avenue for addressing these challenges.

To address this, a VR math game was developed for this research, drawing from established educational frameworks and insights garnered from subject matter experts. Through qualitative interviews and thorough requirement analysis, the game’s design was refined. Subsequently, two user studies were conducted within real-world school environments.

The initial study focused on assessing usability and refining the prototype based on user feedback. Encouraging outcomes paved the way for a more extensive second study. This followup delved into the influence of a reward system and virtual agent on the user experience, and comparing the VR game against a non-VR counterpart. The findings demonstrated that the VR game not only cultivated positive user experiences but also heightened motivation and engagement.

Despite these promising results, further exploration is necessary to determine the role of ‘peerpresence’ in VR learning, and the game’s suitability for children with clinically diagnosed attention and hyperactivity issues. This research adds valuable insights into the process of creating inclusive and effective VR learning experiences. Through a comprehensive research approach, including design, usability testing, and user studies, the thesis underscored the potential of VR to enhance user engagement and experiences within educational contexts.

Ngā upoko tukutuku/Māori subject headings
ANZSRC fields of research
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