A virtual classroom gives researchers the freedom to conduct experiments with complete control over the actions and appearance of virtual teachers, classmates, and surroundings. In collaboration with researchers from the Graduate School of Education, we are investigating the interactions between class subject, learning environment, and classroom makeup on participants' interest and learning in a virtual class. Through the virtual world, we are also able to precisely monitor participants’ behavior in the classroom, and look for correlations between these behaviors and learning outcomes.
Prior work in the lab has shown that believing one has had a social interaction in a virtual environment can increase arousal, focus attention, and improve learning. Further, experiments from the non-virtual world have been replicated and expanded in virtual reality, including studying stereotype threat imposed by avatars and examining gestures used in solving math problems.