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Integrating VR into Classrooms and Curricula

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Virtual reality has been around for decades, and the most studied use case is learning. But most research on learning has occured in the laboratory. How will VR work as a part of an actual curriculum in classrooms and other informal settings?

In a mixed-methods approach we are conducting lab, field, quantitative and qualitative studies with students, teachers and other education stakeholders in order to investigate the effectiveness of educational VR programs in different learning settings. In addition, we are studying both the challenges and opportunities for implementing VR in education.

For example, we are conducting studies embedded in classrooms with hundreds of middle and high school students to test how different levels of immersion impact various cognitive processes, self-efficacy and motivation to learn.  Our first paper was presented at the International Communication Association conference in May. The consistent finding across these studies is that VR causes gains in self efficacy – the belief that one can do science.

In addition to studying the students, we are working with teachers. We are investigating how marine educators envision VR use to address issues of teaching about ocean acidification (OA). Using surveys, interviews, and working sessions in VR, we have learned how VR can fill particular challenges teachers face in teaching science, and are subsequently designing new VR experiences tailored to fit the needs of the curriculum.

Finally, the Virtual Reality Education in Times of Global Crisis study aims to explore how the quarantine and shelter-in-place measures resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting the use of educational VR. We are employing both survey measures and in-depth interviews to investigate how and to what extent parents use educational VR applications with their K-12 kids.