Designing immersive virtual training environments for experiential learning
Virtual Reality (VR) technology can offer significant benefits and, for this reason, it is used effectively in various fields including military training, therapy, architecture, etc. . Nevertheless, until recently, VR technology was mostly in possession of academic and research institutions due to the high cost. As this technology is becoming more and more accessible to the wider audience, it can contribute to its future expansion to other fields including education . The current VR application aims to support systematic teacher education and professional development via experiential learning. This need arose from the fact that the use of VR in teacher education and training is extremely limited to the best of our knowledge. Moreover, the last few years, the modernization of Education and the implementation of new ICT-based teaching and learning strategies that resulted to the digitalization of today’s classroom in combination with the new challenges posed such as multicultural classrooms, demand high-quality and well-trained teachers and educators in general. For this reason, Europe’s Strategy ‘Education and Training 2020’ in the field of education and training puts a strong emphasis on improving the quality of teacher education. In line with European Union objectives, the current VR application aims to contribute to the strengthening of the profile of the teaching profession through the enhancement of teachers’ professional development, using a contemporary virtual reality-based framework.
VR offers engaging and immersive experiences, allowing teachers to experience real world classroom situations that can enhance their professional knowledge, skills, and competencies, while protecting students from unnecessary risks. The proposed VR framework is an instrument that can be used to support teachers’ continuous professional development through systematic, individualized training. This research gives an innovative VR-based approach to teacher education and the related training methodology, offering a new paradigm in teacher education that also responds to real global needs. Another significant fact is that the target group being teachers, trainers, and educators supported from the beginning the design, development, and evaluation of the VR application. Users constitute the core component of a VR experience . This relates to the fact that each user entering the virtual world has different characteristics and capabilities, and as a result, their experience is unique for each one of them. Hence, virtual systems should be designed by taking into consideration the individual features of participants who experience the virtual world. It was clear from the beginning that educators are a dynamic target group, with many needs that need to be addressed and with a need to approach their needs in a way to motivate them. Thus, they became co-designers in a five-phase process (pedagogical framework defining, development of competence framework, design of scenario, development of VR system, evaluation of VR system) leading to significant input during the design and development of the scenario and the virtual environment. This resulted in the development of scenario that reflects real-life situations while the virtual classroom also provides them a motivating and positive experience.
Based on the formed competence model, the main objective of the VR application is to enhance empathy skills. The use of VR based methodology allowed end-users to put themselves in the position of students facing various problematic situations such as movement disorders (prosthetic leg), appearance problems (burn situation), health issues (anorexia), substance use situations, multicultural issues (student refugee and Muslim) and bullying incidents related to the above described conditions. Apart from the cultivation of empathy, equally significant for the current research were the investigation of presence and embodiment levels and user’s emotional experiences. Presence and embodiment are major component parts of a VR system , and the user’s input was significant for the design of the virtual environment in a way that causes them the sense of being there. Furthermore, users’ emotional experiences could not be ignored as they are highly related to the sense of presence .
The VR application was evaluated using various instruments including EEG devices (BIOSEMI Active Two 64 channel amplifier system, EMOTIV EPOC+), fitness wristband fitbit charge 2 for recording participants’ heart rate, questionnaires, interviews and research diaries. The results indicated that sense of presence was achieved, while the users’ experienced enormous changes in their emotions during the experiments that could also be related to the different scenario. Moreover, the participants preferred to be trained using a virtual space instead of traditional training, while they preferred to be trained in more imaginary classroom spaces instead of real-life based. Furthermore, the results revealed that empathy skills were enhanced and the results that are still under analysis indicate that the cultivation of empathy related to the users’ perspective taking and body changing the virtual world.
VR use in teacher education and training is still at its infancy, and further research is required to determine the exact impact of implementing a VR-based methodology. Yet, proposed VR framework could form the basis for future investigations in the field and further development of the existing VR application. In the long term, this research aims to the development of VR tool that could be implemented as part of teacher education within the universities or other organizations that could also be updated continuously based on users’ real needs every time. This VR tool can be the core of a platform that will connect educators with the development team, allowing them to co-design various scenarios together, as educators will be able to share various experiences and incidents that have encountered within the classroom that can become the new scenario for others. This will allow the VR system to be dynamic and updated and most importantly address the reals needs of educators every time. Such a tool will foster the professional development of educators, while it could form the basis to increase the use of VR in the classroom, as well as teachers’ familiarization with VR, will potentially allow them to use it more and even design their own scenarios for their students.
This program is tentative and subject to change.
Wed 23 Oct
|18:00 - 18:11|
Beatriz SouzaFederal University of Campina Grande
|18:11 - 18:22|
|18:22 - 18:33|
Dominik AumayrJohannes Kepler University Linz, Austria
|18:33 - 18:45|
|18:45 - 18:56|
Muna AltherwiSouthampton University
|18:56 - 19:07|
Florian LatifiJohannes Kepler University LinzDOI Pre-print
|19:07 - 19:18|
|19:18 - 19:30|
Maarten P. SijmDelft University of Technology