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11.07.2020 | Ausgabe 1/2021 Open Access

Journal of Computers in Education 1/2021

Immersive virtual reality as a pedagogical tool in education: a systematic literature review of quantitative learning outcomes and experimental design

Journal of Computers in Education > Ausgabe 1/2021
D. Hamilton, J. McKechnie, E. Edgerton, C. Wilson
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The adoption of immersive virtual reality (I-VR) as a pedagogical method in education has challenged the conceptual definition of what constitutes a learning environment. High fidelity graphics and immersive content using head-mounted-displays (HMD) have allowed students to explore complex subjects in a way that traditional teaching methods cannot. Despite this, research focusing on learning outcomes, intervention characteristics, and assessment measures associated with I-VR use has been sparse. To explore this, the current systematic review examined experimental studies published since 2013, where quantitative learning outcomes using HMD based I-VR were compared with less immersive pedagogical methods such as desktop computers and slideshows. A literature search yielded 29 publications that were deemed suitable for inclusion. Included papers were quality assessed using the Medical Education Research Study Quality Instrument (MERSQI). Most studies found a significant advantage of utilising I-VR in education, whilst a smaller number found no significant differences in attainment level regardless of whether I-VR or non-immersive methods were utilised. Only two studies found clear detrimental effects of using I-VR. However, most studies used short interventions, did not examine information retention, and were focused mainly on the teaching of scientific topics such as biology or physics. In addition, the MERSQI showed that the methods used to evaluate learning outcomes are often inadequate and this may affect the interpretation of I-VR’s utility. The review highlights that a rigorous methodological approach through the identification of appropriate assessment measures, intervention characteristics, and learning outcomes is essential to understanding the potential of I-VR as a pedagogical method.
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