An evaluation of virtual reality (VR) as an learning tool for students with the aid of an interactive VR simulation program
The concept for this research began with the realisation that Virtual Reality (VR) could be used in education. This inspired an interest in the applications of VR and its possible benefit as a teaching and learning tool in higher education. The aim of the research is to perform a literature analysis of VR as a learning tool, and evaluate a first-year higher education students’ experience of its implementation with the aid of an interactive VR simulation program. Objective one is to critically analyse existing literature regarding the implementation of VR in education. Objective two is to perform a literature analysis of the learning theories that underpin VR as a learning tool. The final objective is to evaluate the students experience when using VR for a computer networks application in an educational environment. Participants in the research were required to wear a VR headset and interact with a virtual environment which was a representation of a computer network. An interpretivist paradigm was used as the lens of the research as the participants’ experience was a key feature of the aim of the research. A mixed approach was chosen to enrich the research with both quantitative and qualitative data. The research methods used were a questionnaire and a subsequent focus group. A limitation of this research was the number of participants which was 21. The limited access to resources to develop the VRLE restricted its operation and appearance. The literature analysis identified eight themes for the research which were Motivation, Novelty, Immersive Effect, VRLE Design, Possible Immersive Environment Discomfort, Alignment with Experiential Learning, Alignment with Situated Learning and Alignment with Constructivism. These themes were used to underpin the questionnaire questions and focus group discussion. The findings of the research indicated a positive reaction from participants to the usage and benefits of VR as a learning tool. However, they indicated a preference for limited use. The research finding argued an alignment with VR and the learning theories of Experiential Learning, Situated Learning and Constructivism.
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