By Henry Kronk, eLearningInside News. This article was originally posted at news.elearninginside.com
Instruction using Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR\VR) has been gaining steam in undergraduate education. Especially in subjects in which learners need to understand and study 3D objects—medicine, engineering, math, and other STEM fields—many educators believe the technology has huge potential. But it’s also highly untested, and no one fully understands how it differs in an educational context from other media. Previously published studies have indicated that some students benefit more from it than others. Specifically, experience playing video games and even gender might have an effect on how one learns with VR. In research out this month, investigators from Ohio State University look into the matter further.
In 2017, a team led by Ohio State physics PhD candidate Joseph Smith uncovered an interesting phenomenon. They were looking into how VR environments could be used to teach a unit in electrostatics in an introductory physics course. While students tended to say that they enjoyed the VR, male students and those who reported playing video games regularly recorded larger gains than women and and non-gamers. What’s more, among non-gamers, people in the VR test group had lower gains than the control group (who weren’t using VR). This study did not account for non-binary genders.
As Smith et al. wrote at the time, “These results support the hypothesis that successful use of VR is dependent on the student having some experience with video games.”
They continue, writing, “there does appear to be a slight gender bias against women for the effectiveness of VR treatments, and this could be due to the disparity between men’s and women’s self-reported experience with video games in our study.”
Evidence indicates that men and gamers benefit more from VR in education than eomen and non-gamers
These conclusions have strong implications for the future use of VR. If the technology primarily benefits one subset of a student body, educators would need to think twice before giving it to an entire class to use.
This month, Smith and many of the authors on the study described above published results from a follow up study that dug deeper into the issue. Again, they introduced a VR supplement to an electrostatics unit.
But this time, they wanted to see if they could train a treatment group of learners to use VR in advance and, as a result, improve their performance. This would hypothetically make up ground that non-gamers lose when using VR.
They also did away with a non-VR control group. For their control, they asked learners to go through the VR instruction without training. They also distinguished between 3D gamers and 2D gamers.
In all, 271 students participated in the study, 20% of whom identified as female. Here, gender identification was voluntary, and a small subset of the group identified as neither male nor female. However, it did not make up a large enough sample to be representative.