Virtual reality and science learning: Two experiments (Best Evidence in Brief)

There is a new Best Evidence in Brief and this time I picked this study from this biweekly newsletter written up by Sijie Sheng:

Researchers evaluated the effectiveness of an immersive virtual reality (IVR) simulation method compared with a video for teaching and learning scientific knowledge by conducting 2 experiments. In Experiment 1, 131 students were randomly divided into an IVR condition (n = 64) and a video condition (n = 67) to learn forensic analysis of a DNA sample. Researchers used a prequestionnaire to check students’ prior knowledge and demographic characteristics, and a postquestionnaire to investigate students’ perceived enjoyment, presence, declarative knowledge, and procedural knowledge. In Experiment 2, 165 students replicated the experiment but were randomly assigned to 4 conditions, IVR (n = 42), IVR with enactment (n = 41), video (n = 39), and video with enactment (n = 43), to investigate whether enactment can enhance students’ learning achievements as well as the knowledge transfer process.

According to the results of both experiments, students from the IVR groups felt significantly more presence and enjoyment than those from the video groups. While students preferred learning in IVR and felt a greater sense of engagement, IVR did not yield better learning outcomes compared to conventional media like video. The data of Experiment 2 revealed significant differences between the video groups (higher scores, (M = 10.55, SD = 4.25) and the IVR groups (lower scores, M = 9.60, SD = 3.97) on assessments of declarative knowledge, which led to the conclusion of the main media effect that the video is more instrumental in students’ acquisition process of declarative knowledge than IVR, while enactment makes no difference. Moreover, Experiment 2 reinforced the finding that enactment can be effective in enhancing learning, especially in IVR.

In conclusion, only when IVR is appropriately integrated into lesson plans and carefully implemented with generative learning strategies in classrooms can the media be effective to facilitate student learning and improve academic performance. Several factors, such as sensations of touch and weight perception, could be optimized in IVR to achieve better learning performance.

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