VR Pedagogy in First-Year Seminar

$250 travel grant

In Spring 2021, I registered an Independent Study with Dr. Lauren Herckis to do some research on the new Grand Challenge First-Year Seminar course 66-129 Unreality: Immersive and Spatial Media, which aims to introduce students to immersive and spatial media; contextualize these media historically, culturally, and technologically; and problematize design and development efforts.

I’m generally interested in how technologies like VR are incorporated into a first-year seminar educational context and how educational research is done. As I came from a psychology background, I am much more familiar with the quantitative research methods, so I decided to explore the qualitative methods and conduct a descriptive case study to expand my skill set. With some literature review on VR education, I proposed three research questions at the intersection of VR pedagogy, students’ perception of VR, and students’ learning (Fig 1). In order to simplify the description of pedagogies and assessments of student learning, we target a subset of learning goals about critical media analysis skills for our research.

Fig 1. Research Questions

After specifying the research questions, we started to use a descriptive coding approach to qualitatively analyze students’ perception of immersive and spatial media like VR. The data we used is 36 enrolled students’ responses to a pretest prompt: “Describe a grand challenge that humanity faces with regard to immersive and spatial media, and why do you think it’s such a big challenge.” We used the grounded theory approach to iteratively adjudicate and refine the codebook, and 4 thematic categories emerged from the analysis: Access-focused, Development, Loss, and Regulation and Ethical Pitfalls.

Fig 2. The word cloud of students’ pretest responses on their perception of VR

For the other two components of our research questions, we will qualitatively describe the VR pedagogies used in this course, and quantitatively evaluate students’ learning trajectories based on their performance across multiple assessments throughout the course. To further explore the potential relationship between students learning and their perception of VR under this context, we will compare the learning trajectories of students with diverse perspectives of immersive and spatial media when the semester began.

The 2021 spring semester marked many of my first time accomplishments in my research career: first time doing a qualitative case study over a course, first time seeing integration of technologies in educational context from a research perspective, first time collaboratively writing a paper using latex, first time having a work-in-progress paper accepted, first time being a first author and a poster presenter at a conference… It’s also my first time using VR! I’ve learned so much in the whole process with extensive help from Lauren, who’s also the instructor of the class EGIA that I took in 2020 Fall.

We’ve composed the paper and submitted a work-in-progress paper1 to the 2021 Immersive Learning Research Network Conference (iLRN) in a very limited time, above is our presentation and here’s our poster (Fig. 3) and booth (Fig. 4). We plan to finish this descriptive case study and seek a publication for this research in 2021. 

Fig 3. Poster for our work-in-progress paper @iLRN 2021
Fig 4. Our virtual booth @iLRN 2021
  1. Q. Ma and L. Herckis, “Work-in-Progress-VR-Enabled Pedagogy in a First-Year Seminar,” 2021 7th International Conference of the Immersive Learning Research Network (iLRN), 2021, pp. 1-3, doi: 10.23919/iLRN52045.2021.9459331