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Research Roundup: VR and AR for Learning

We live in an exciting time where playing a video game doesn’t always mean sitting down in front of a computer or TV screen. While a mouse and keyboard, a controller, or a handheld console can provide plenty of opportunities for playful learning, learners from all walks of life can truly immerse themselves in the world around them or a different world altogether with augmented reality and virtual reality. If you’re nervous or hesitant about using nascent technologies, never fear! VR and AR don’t have to be super complex or high-tech to be captivating and fun – just look at Pokémon Go!

via Giphy

As AR and VR technologies continue to progress, so does the research about their effectiveness in education. We’ve covered some research on VR and learning before, but for today’s blog, we wanted to report on the latest and greatest research on both VR and AR for education. Let us know what you think of this collection of studies on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, and be sure to include details about any real-life experience you have using AR or VR in the classroom!


Effects of virtual reality on learning outcomes in K-6 education: A meta-analysis

We’re kicking off this research roundup with a meta-analysis! Which, if you don’t know, is a synthesis of multiple studies meant to find average outcomes. By gathering data from 21 experimental studies spanning from 2010 to 2021, analysts found that VR has an overall positive impact on K-6 education. More specifically, “Virtual reality has a medium-large positive effect on students’ learning gains” and “Immersive virtual reality promotes larger gains than semi and non-immersive systems.” Researchers noted that in the future, more studies are needed in areas of learning like history or music, because a majority of the studies they included in their meta-analysis were STEM-related. Nonetheless, whether VR is used in early childhood education or primary school education, this analysis showed that it benefits students and improves learning outcomes. While we’re not at all surprised, we love to hear it!  

Benefits of Taking a Virtual Field Trip in Immersive Virtual Reality: Evidence for the Immersion Principle in Multimedia Learning

This next study involves a group of 102 middle school students in a geography class learning about climate change. These students were divided into two groups: one that took a virtual field trip to Greenland by watching a 2D video, and another that took this trip via VR using a head-mounted display (HMD). Students were then given an immediate posttest after the lesson, and another one later on, called a delayed posttest. Researchers found that not only did the VR learning group score better on the immediate and delayed posttest, but students in the VR group reported higher levels of presence, enjoyment, and interest. Because of this, researchers concluded that their findings “[suggest] that immersive lessons can have positive longitudinal effects for learning.” To us, this study also demonstrates the two-fold power of immersive learning – it can be incredibly engaging and it allows for simulated travel that would, in real-life, be too expensive, dangerous, or otherwise impractical for classes

Immersive virtual reality for increasing presence and empathy

Similar to the above study, this research involved breaking participants (this time 148 pre-service teachers) into two groups. One group viewed a video in VR and another viewed the same video on a TV screen. Afterward, researchers screened participants on their levels of presence and empathy. According to researchers, “The results showed that the level of immersion affects perceived presence, but it was the type of perspective-taking that affects empathetic reactions.” They then elaborate, “The direct embodiment in VR combined with high immersion produced stronger empathy than with low immersion, while the perspective of an observer was better in evoking empathy when experienced with low immersion.” What does this suggest to us, your friendly neighborhood educational game developer? Both VR and 2D media have something to offer learners in the way of empathy – and whether or not VR is the best platform for your game is a matter of your project’s specific goals!


Augmented reality for preschool children: An experience with educational contents

Moving on to research surrounding AR, this study set out to compare the effectiveness of traditional teaching methods with augmented reality. Specifically, researchers recorded the levels of motivation, attention and conceptual skills built in preschool students in both an experimental group (AR learning) and a control group (traditional learning). The results? “…it was determined that the motivation, attention and concept skills of the children in the experimental group increased significantly compared to the children in the control group. The results show that augmented reality applications can be used in learning activities in preschool education.” Though educators and other adults in the lives of young students should ensure they use technology safely and develop media literacy skills, technology is not simply a distraction for young people. Along with boosting motivation and focus like the findings of this study, tools like AR can improve technological literacy and build skills that are applicable in a variety of career paths – it’s never too early to think about the future! 

The Effect of Augmented Reality based applications on achievement and attitude towards science course in distance education process

Augmented reality enriches the learning experiences of preschool students – but how about third-grade distance learners? This study set out to see how AR affected a group of third-grade science students who were attending school remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Like several of the previous studies we’ve covered in this article, these researchers tested the participants on both knowledge retention through a posttest and surveyed them on their attitude toward their learning experience. Taking place over four weeks, the students received lessons that included AR around the theme “Electric Vehicles” in their science class. Researchers concluded that “AR-based applications positively affected the academic achievements and attitudes of the students towards the science course” and that AR is an effective tool for translating abstract concepts to learners, especially remotely

Using augmented reality for early literacy

The last study in this roundup set out to determine the effectiveness of an AR app called “Fox Alphabet AR.” Tested with Ukrainian students, the app includes the Ukrainian alphabet, the names of numbers, and the sounds of animals, and “the learning process is accompanied by three-dimensional visualization and sounding of each letter and number.” By surveying parents and teachers, who observed the students’ use of the app over increments of time, researchers found that overall “…when using an AR application, the interest and self-efficacy of children in learning letters and numbers significantly increased. The use of the AR application increased the speed of memorizing the material and helped to retain the child’s attention while learning a new material.” While we’ve previously covered augmented reality in the workplace, we’re also fascinated with what role this nascent and ever-growing technology will play in K-12 education as time goes on, and this study gives us a peek at a promising future!

Hope you enjoyed reading (and learned something new!) from this collection of research about VR and AR for learning. If you’d like to leverage the power of AR or VR for education by creating your own game, we’re the educational game developer for you! Reach out to us for a free consultation today. 

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