Working with researchers at Hydrous, the Environmental Education Research team aims at understanding how VR can be applied to enhancing science, environmental and ocean literacy in order to help address pressing societal issues such as the climate emergency.
We conduct our studies in a wide range of settings, from small scale qualitative studies to large-scale quantitative studies across many multiple locations around the world (we are currently recruiting partners for this large-scale study).
Our current projects fall under the following overarching (and overlapping) research themes:
Design for Learning
The majority of research on VR and learning have compared VR to other instructional methods. These studies have been mainly inconclusive in showing that VR is more effective. We decided to take a different approach.
First, we are interested in how various VR designs differ when compared to each other. This project is the first of its kind as all the research procedures are “self-contained”, with the outcome variables being measured within the VR headset, and the output data being written directly to the cloud, which allows us to expand this research beyond our lab. In many ways we are utilizing an architecture that is similar to Mechanical Turk, but in VR. Moreover, we are investigating a large and diverse population, in partnership with study sites in more than 12 U.S. states and several other countries. Interested in becoming a partner? Find out more.
Second, we are investigating how to best combine VR with traditional learning material, paying specific attention to when and how to introduce VR into a larger curriculum.
Finally, we are conducting studies with middle and high school students to test how different levels of immersion impact various cognitive processes, motivation to learn, and self-efficacy.
Closer to the Marine Environment
It can be difficult to grasp the consequences of our everyday actions on the ocean because marine environments (and our impact on them) are usually invisible to us.
To address this challenge, we are investigating how social VR could allow learners to gather in a virtual marine environment and observe the consequences of human activities, making our impact on the ocean more tangible.
We are also investigating the impact of being simultaneously physically immersed in water while also having a VR experience of a marine environment. We want to understand if this “double immersion” helps users have an emotional connection with the ocean that could lead to more sustainable actions, relying on theories of embodied cognition to drive the research questions.
Educators and VR
Teachers and educators have an important role to play for successful implementation of VR in education. We are teaming up with educators in order to shed light on their attitudes and opinions toward VR for education.
Currently, we have many groups of teachers visiting our lab for guided tours, creating opportunities for mutual learning about the field of VR for education. In one of our studies, we immerse marine educators in a VR activity on ocean acidification. Then, educators help us understand how VR can address the challenges of teaching about ocean acidification based on their experience in the classroom.
Do you want to learn more about our research with teachers and educators or be part of our studies? Please contact us.