Virtual reality promises to be a tool that can improve higher education. Immersive virtual environments offer the chance to enrich courses with experiential learning experiences. The technological possibilities evolve rapidly and more and more researchers report on adopting virtual reality for learning-albeit such work often has a more or less experimental character. However, the base of knowledge on using virtual reality in higher education is growing; educators who want to employ virtual reality to amend courses, to extend the curriculum with experiential learning, or who want to offer new content enabled through virtual reality, find increasingly rich advice. With this article, we contribute to this advice by providing insights from three research cases. Although these were experimental, their embedding into a larger project enables us to propose recommendations for educators. The ultimate aim of our work is the routine use of virtual reality in higher education.
Virtual reality has been proposed as a promising technology for higher education since the combination of immersive and interactive features enables experiential learning. However, previous studies did not distinguish between the different learning modes of the four-stage experiential learning cycle (i.e., concrete experience, reflective observation, abstract conceptualization, and active experimentation). With our study, we contribute a deeper understanding of how the unique opportunities of virtual reality can afford each of the four experiential learning modes. We conducted three design thinking workshops with interdisciplinary teams of students and lecturers. These workshops resulted in three low-fidelity virtual reality prototypes which were evaluated and refined in three student focus groups. Based on these results, we identify design elements for virtual reality applications that afford an holistic experiential learning process in higher education. We discuss the implications of our results for the selection, design, and use of educational virtual reality applications.
Benefits and applications of virtual reality (VR) in higher education have seen much interest both from research and industry. While several immersive VR applications for higher education have been described, a structured analysis of such applications on the market does not exist. We use design elements from research for applying VR in higher education to analyze available VR apps. The analyzed VR applications were acquired from pertinent online stores to capture the market’s state. We analyze the current picture of the available apps by categorizing them based on design elements and learning content. The aims are to map what types of apps are available, to study what expected types cannot (yet) be found, to compare the current state of the literature and the educational VR app market, as well as to scrutinize the most frequently used design elements for VR in education.
Researchers have explored the benefits and applications of virtual reality (VR) in different scenarios. VR possesses much potential and its application in education has seen much research interest lately. However, little systematic work currently exists on how researchers have applied immersive VR for higher education purposes that considers the usage of both high-end and budget head-mounted displays (HMDs). Hence, we propose using systematic mapping to identify design elements of existing research dedicated to the application of VR in higher education. The reviewed articles were acquired by extracting key information from documents indexed in four scientific digital libraries, which were filtered systematically using exclusion, inclusion, semi-automatic, and manual methods. Our review emphasizes three key points: the current domain structure in terms of the learning contents, the VR design elements, and the learning theories, as a foundation for successful VR-based learning. The mapping was conducted between application domains and learning contents and between design elements and learning contents. Our analysis has uncovered several gaps in the application of VR in the higher education sphere—for instance, learning theories were not often considered in VR application development to assist and guide toward learning outcomes. Furthermore, the evaluation of educational VR applications has primarily focused on usability of the VR apps instead of learning outcomes and immersive VR has mostly been a part of experimental and development work rather than being applied regularly in actual teaching. Nevertheless, VR seems to be a promising sphere as this study identifies 18 application domains, indicating a better reception of this technology in many disciplines. The identified gaps point toward unexplored regions of VR design for education, which could motivate future work in the field.
While researchers' interest in the educational use of virtual reality (VR) has generally increased , only a few studies have evaluated the effectiveness of VR in higher education. This research-in-progress paper presents an overview of an ongoing design-science-research (DSR) project that will (1) develop a conceptual framework for the design and use of VR in higher education, and (2) evaluate the framework by means of a series of field experiments. In addition, the paper presents preliminary results from a literature review, so it provides a foundation for framework development. Specifically, we identify several VR design elements (e.g., interaction, feedback, and instruction) and discuss what they can contribute to the acquisition of procedural and declarative knowledge and to the development of skills such as problem-solving, communication, and collaboration. We conclude the paper with an outlook on our research agenda.