In past few years, new advanced technologies have emerged making the education process more interactive for students and educators. Smartphones and their learning-based applications are one of these technologies to support students to communicate effectively with their instructors, these applications become more attractive by involving 3D world elements to make the learning more amusing for students. With the continued advancement in educational technologies, VR has been recently introduced to turn the learning world upside down and holds promise as a tool to enhance the learning with a more interactive way in many subjects like science and languages learning. This new technology is basically a collection of hardware tools (–e.g. mobile, Head Mounted Displays HMD and other sensors) and software to deliver the immersive experience for the learner. This qualitative research discusses many aspects of virtual reality in education by comparing a smartphone-based application with the same application built in virtual reality environment as well. The application here is basically a solar system content with 3D utility.
By implementing the same content on both environments, Virtual reality device and a standalone mobile device, I can establish a common ground of these two environments in my research.
Application (1) – ML Application (2) – VR
2. Research Question
What is the effectiveness of introducing VR technology in the learning process?
3. Research Method
Due to the limitation of getting Virtual reality equipment’s and build an application to conduct a real experiment to evaluate two environment of learning methods, VR, and mobile learning, I contacted an expert in this field who has been working in many educational technologies like e-learning solutions based on smartphones and PC. He has recently turned to deliver educational services based on VR tools for many academic and non-academic organizations. He has already experienced this transformation and has enough to talk about the reaction of students and instructors on this new way of education.
So Purposive criterion sampling was employed in order to interview an expert who was likely to have relevant and rich sources of information.
I have also conducted a focus group by inviting many students to participate and share their thoughts on this topic.
Questions have been divided into two categories; the first one is for general questions about the interviewees and their experience with this education technology and followed by questions about many topics related to the research question and keeps in mind the comparison of two environments VR and ML (mobile learning) as a standalone device.
I chose open-ended questions and semi-structured interviews which follows some predefined template but it gives me a freedom delve further and ask follow up questions which emerge from the answers.
The Ground Theory utilized in this research as it let me discover, generate ideas explanation from my collected data.
I chose to employ the grounded theory as mentioned earlier, to develop a theory out my analysis, and that includes initial and focused coding in the first stage of the research, seeking to discover the concepts within the data considering the research question.
After the initial coding, I tried to capture and reflect the relationships between the extracted concepts from the first stage by developing axial coding. In this stage, I have to note the categories emerging from my data, for example, “comparison of VR and ML applications, Quality aspect and other”. Then I constantly compare the data, the codes and the categories. So After the transcription and analyzing the data I have decided to discuss these categories:
General Findings, Comparison of Environments, Quality Attributes, and Adaptability.
A Few interpretations of my data and terms used in the coding stage have been added as a form of memos.
As a final stage, I identified the codes that are the key concept where other codes can be organized around them, for example, my main codes where the quality attributes which can be key concepts when we study the relationship with the remaining codes. From this stage, I could conclude my theory about the effectiveness of introducing VR in education.
4.1. General Findings
According to the data from expert interview and focus group, the majority of the interviewees have used virtual reality before or tried at least once. Although some of them mentioned that Virtual Reality has some negative aspects in term of mobility, price, and concentration in some subjects, however, most of them also chose virtual reality over any kind of traditional way of learning including the mobile learning with 3D capability.
4.2. Comparison of application
When I asked the interviewees about which way of learning students and teachers prefer as a mean of learning. Most of them voted for VR as the best choice, and the main reason given by the interviewees was that Virtual Reality offered an immersive experience. The Expert mentioned interesting examples of how the students explore the space and VR immerse their learning perfectly. Other interviewees said:
“Because you are kind of inside that world so if you have it on your phone it is really easy to look away that if you are in VR world which a lot harder, I think”.
On the other hand, the vast majority of interviewees explained that a subject with a lot of text to read would be most suitable for mobile learning (ML) while a subject with more visualization content or let say for simulators will be definitely the best choice for Virtual Reality:
The expert explained that:
“Definitely, VR has its own limitations, I cannot say that VR can be used to teach something let say, you know nutrition or let say literature”.
The students I interviewed also came across this point and mentioned about the difficulties of using VR for textual courses or any kind of text-based content as they will lose their concentration.
4.3. Quality Attributes:
The concern was to measure the usability and effectiveness of both methods and to which extend Virtual reality (VR) and Mobile-based Learning (ML) achieve these attributes.
Effectiveness in my research refers to the accuracy of achieving the learning goals of any course either based on VR or ML. on other words, which technology helps the students to fulfil the learning goal of any subject.
Students and expert agree that the concentration is the main key to achieve the learning goal of any subject and while VR gives more immersed experience compared with non-VR application; this will allow the student to be more focused.
VR can be applied on wide range of subjects especially with modeling or visualization based contents which attract the users to keep learning longer and at their own pace. Moreover they can experience a separate learning track by giving them the full control of their VR device to explore freely.
However, In VR they think that the text is harder to read compare to the mobile learning while VR more effective way of learning when it come to the courses with simulators or need more hand practicing for safety purposes.
Usability means: “to what extent one of the proposed applications can be understood, learned, used and attractive to the user when used for a specific subject”.
The expert showed how VR is more usable especially in the classroom settings where teacher can be the central point of VR systems. He illustrated an example of instructor-led astronomy course where the teacher can guide the students through a tour in the space using virtual reality. Teacher can also set a deadline to start a quiz and stop the lesson at any time.
Mobility is one of the important points when we compare these two environments, Mobile learning (ML) is always preferred as explained by expert: “The mobile version is very good, as I mentioned, as good point, as standalone learning, definitely, there is no dependency on any external tracking nothing, they just give, you know, a mobile”
The expert and students expressed about the adaptability with regard the different age group, different students backgrounds and even the teacher as power user of this technology.
With little resistance from some time to adopt the new technologies, there are a lot of supports given by the majority of teachers when it comes to implementing Virtual Reality as they can see a real value in the teaching process.
The grade level also plays role on adaptability, as per the expert, the students of grade 4 or 5 inward would be more accepting for VR as way of learning. With regards to students from different backgrounds, the students with architecture studies (non-CS students) would be easier for them to play with any 3D modelling-related subject, however for CS students they may find it difficult.
Other interviewees have generally pointed that CS students will adapt VR easier than other non-CS students.
Although the VR is relatively new technology, I found the majority of students have tried VR once which is good start. Considering that most of students have already tried mobile to learn something, I focused on asking about their understandability and experience with Virtual Reality to make sure that everyone can be involved in the discussion easily. There was one negative attitude about resolution of VR display from one of the interviewees and I believe if he has the opportunity to experience VR through a HMD with Gear VR, he will definitely has a positive attitude.
Concentration is a key for students learning. Using Virtual reality applications will deliver more immersive experience by transferring the student to his own virtual world with his/her own learning track. There are no distractions which help more focusing on what is in that world.
I found also that the subjects that require simulation or 3D modeling would be better to use VR like architecture, Astronomy or any similar fields of education which is based on visualization rather than just textual content which fits more for mobile learning or any other 2D technology.
Using VR can be an alternative tool to deliver training for any civil activities which require many safety considerations in this field. So using this technology will lower the risk of accidents and give the trainees a better control. We should always consider that the learning outcomes can be achieved only if we implement this technology appropriately to fulfil the purpose of the education.
From my results also I can see that the teachers are willing to adopt VR in their classrooms. VR provides constant supervision, instructor-led possibility and full controllability. So teachers can use the application to steer the lecture and guide his/her class. Moreover the lecture in VR is more interactive process.
Since VR depends on the immersive experience, it is important to consider the resolution and good VR device like Samsung Gear, HTC, or any high quality device to avoid the bad attitude of the students toward this technology especially if part of the content based on a text.
In term of adaptability, students with age group 4 years and above will be more accepting VR as technology for learning rather than just a tool for game like the case with younger kids.
From the data collected, I found that most dominant quality aspects related to my research question, were the effectiveness and usability. VR has more interesting results in term of effectiveness. So most of the interviewees believe that VR will be more effective application, especially when we talking about the immersive experience which help students to concentrate and surly will keep longer within that world. Moreover students can use VR to experience their learning track individually and easy to use for many subjects. On the other hands, mobile learning has got more votes when it comes to the mobility and the prices of the technology. My data illustrates that VR is not as good as ML which is easier to carry and move safely.
The Expert informed that his data will be presented as part of this course; especially the part where he mentioned that he/his company conducted a research about the new education technology and adaptability amongst many students. And I got a verbal approval of publishing this information. I got also an informed consent from the interviewees that the information they provide will be transcript and published as part of my study.