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Can a virtual reality (VR) simulation promote acquisition of scientific skills with real-life practicability? In order to answer this question, we conducted (I) an online study (N = 126) and (II) a field study at a high school (N = 47). Study I focused on the instructional design of VR by comparing the effects of different pedagogical agents on acquiring pipetting skills. We found no significant differences between the conditions, that is, it did not seem to make a difference whether the pedagogical agent was present or not, or if it demonstrated the procedure or not. Study II focused on transfer of skills learned in VR to real-life with the addition of a control group who were taught by a real-life instructor. The results indicated that performance in VR can predict performance on a real-life transfer test. However, comparisons between the two groups showed that the students who received virtual training made more errors, experienced more extraneous cognitive load, and learned less compared to the students who were taught by the real-life instructor. Across both studies, all students experienced an increase in self-efficacy from prior to after the intervention, although the students taught by the real-life instructor experienced the largest increases in Study II. Hence, VR should not replace traditional ways of teaching scientific procedures. Rather, it can be a complement to traditional teaching that can increase accessibility.
Petersen, G. B., Klingenberg, S., & Makransky, G. (2022). Pipetting in Virtual Reality Can Predict Real-Life Pipetting Performance. Technology, Mind, and Behavior, 3(3). https://doi.org/10.1037/tmb0000076
Pedagogical agents are theorized to increase humans’ effort to understand computerized instructions. Despite the pedagogical promises of VR, the usefulness of pedagogical agents in VR remains uncertain. Based on this gap, and inspired by global efforts to advance remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, we conducted an educational VR study in-the-wild (𝑁 = 161). With a2 × 2 + 1 between subjects design, we manipulated the appearance and behavior of a virtual museum guide in an exhibition about viruses. Factual and conceptual learning outcomes as well as subjective learning experience measures were collected. In general,participants reported high enjoyment and had significant knowledge acquisition. We found that the agent’s appearance and behavior impacted factual knowledge gain. We also report an interaction effect between behavioral and visual realism for conceptual knowledge gain. Our findings nuance classical multimedia learning theories and provide directions for employing agents in immersive learning environments.
Petersen, B., G., Mottelson A., & Makransky G., (2021). Pedagogical Agents in Educational VR: An in the Wild Study. Proceedings of the 2021 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Association for Computing Machinery, New York, NY, USA, 1–13. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3411764.3445760