How interactivity and presence affect learning in virtual reality: a mixed methods study design
Research questions and hypotheses
- Do increased levels of interactivity result in greater feelings of presence in an immersive VR
learning environment compared to a lower interactivity intervention?
- Do feelings of presence correlate positively with learning outcomes?
- How do interactivity and presence impact the learner’s experience?
This study will focus on interactivity as the independent variable, and assess its impact on presence, cognitive load and knowledge.
H1: Highly interactive content will have a positive effect on presence
H2: Highly interactive content will have a negative effect on extraneous environmental cognitive load
H3: Self-reported feelings of presence will have a positive effect on learning outcomes.
VR experience design
The VR experience for the experimental sessions is under development. An outline of the basic experience flow can be seen on a Whimsical board below:
Accessibility is an incredibly important value for pedagogic interventions. Without considering how to make educational material accessible to the broadest possible range of users, some learners will almost certainly be unable to gain value from the VR experience. They may even suffer physical impacts from this disregard. I am currently pulling together a list of requirements to address areas related to accessibility for media, VR environment and interfaces.
|Text||Text should be rendered in a legible font, with adjustments available to size and colour (foreground and background).|
Colour should not be the sole signifier of action or interactibility.
|VR text can be hard to read for anyone, so both legible fonts and accessible colours with good contrast are important for the text to be perceivable.|
Having other visual differences than colour makes perception easier for those with colour blindness.
|Video||Video/pre-recorded elements should be seekable and pausable, or replayable.||Learners should have control of the pacing of material, and the freedom to recap information.|
|Audio – background||Background audio and sound effects should be adjustable to increase or decrease the volume separately to foregrounded audio. If possible, a mono track should be available so that users can switch off spatial audio to assist those with unilateral hearing.|
Visual or haptic signals should accompany significant audio so that audio alone doesn’t signify interaction or response.
|This can help people with conditions such as auditory processing disorder, or hearing difficulties. The ability to reduce extraneous audio is also helpful for managing cognitive load.|
|Audio – narration||Any narration, whether audio-only or embedded in a video, should have captions.|
Captions should be adjustable in font size, and have good contrast against the background.
Captions will be off by default.
|Captions help people who can’t hear, and also those who have auditory processing disorder.|
Captions can be distracting if they are not needed by the learner, causing a split attention effect and thus extra cognitive load.
|Player height||The height of the VR camera and control rig should be dynamic according to the device settings, relative to floor height.||The learner should be able to interact with the environment whether seated or standing, and whether they are physically shorter or taller.|
|World-pulling||While this experience will be designed as a stationary application, users should be able to grab world elements and move them around to suit their position and reach so that they can interact with objects as necessary. The game ‘Lost Recipes’ is a good illustration of this locomotion method.||All elements should be adjustable so that learners can use them from a seated position, without their individual height and reach impeding their ability to engage.|
|Stationary experience||The user will not be required to walk or move around the play space physically. The application will be designed to be played primarily as a seated experience.||This will maximise accessibility for people who cannot stand, or can’t stand for long periods. It also helps reduce the risk of VR simulator sickness, and the risk of injury due to bumping into objects/walking out of a play space.|
|Buttons||Buttons and other interface or interactable items should be of a good size, and well spaced.||Prevents users accidentally selecting the wrong input or object due to a lack of precision in selection.|
|Text||Text on buttons and other interface items should offer good contrast against background colours, and be in a readable font. Buttons should respond to adjustments in text size.||Reduce problems experienced in reading VR text, ensure contrast meets requirements for perceivability.|
|Animation||Buttons and other interface items should communicate success or other states clearly, using a combination of colour/contrast/weight or audio signifiers.||Enables the learner to perceive the current state of a setting, and when it has been successfully changed.|