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The virtual playground: an educational virtual reality environment for evaluating interactivity and conceptual learning

By Maria Roussou, Martin Oliver and Mel Slater


The research presented in this paper aims at investigating user interaction in immersive virtual learning environments (VLEs), focusing on the role and the effect of interactivity on conceptual learning. The goal has been to examine if the learning of young users improves through interacting in (i.e. exploring, reacting to, and acting upon) an immersive virtual environment (VE) compared to non interactive or non-immersive environments. Empirical work was carried out with more than 55 primary school students between the ages of 8 and 12, in different between-group experiments: an exploratory study, a pilot study, and a large-scale experiment. The latter was conducted in a virtual environment designed to simulate a playground. In this ‘Virtual Playground’, each participant was asked to complete a set of tasks designed to address arithmetical ‘fractions’ problems. Three different conditions, two experimental virtual reality (VR) conditions and a non-VR condition, that varied the levels of activity and interactivity, were designed to evaluate how children accomplish the various tasks. Pre-tests, post-tests, interviews, video, audio, and log files were collected for each participant, and analyzed both quantitatively and qualitatively. This paper presents a selection of case studies extracted from the qualitative analysis, which illustrate the variety of approaches taken by children in the VEs in response to visual cues and system feedback. Results suggest that the fully interactive VE aided children in problem solving but did not provide as strong evidence of conceptual change as expected; rather, it was the passive VR environment, where activity was guided by a virtual robot, that seemed to support student reflection and recall, leading to indications of conceptual change

Year: 2006
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s10055-006-0035-5
OAI identifier:

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