Research questions whether virtual reality teaching is as good as traditional methods

Date 19.04.2018

Using virtual reality (VR) technology to teach in universities might not be as conducive to learning as traditional methods, according to a Computing student from the University of Northampton.

Yoana Slavova’s research suggests the human brain can become overwhelmed when exposed to VR, making it hard to recall the information afterwards.

The Master’s student’s paper, which was co-authored with Senior Computing Lecturer, Dr Mu Mu, has caused a stir in the industry, and was presented at IEEE VR 2018,, a leading conference on 3D and virtual reality research held in Germany.

Yoana’s study was centred around a simple, but fundamental question: Does the ‘wow effect’ of VR contribute much, if anything, to students’ learning outcomes in Higher Education.

She said: “While VR is increasingly adopted by primary and secondary schools in the UK to improve pupils’ engagement, it is unclear how the technology would and could impact the learning of hard sciences in universities.

“Our study found that while university students see VR as a great platform to isolate them from real-world distractions, the extra cognitive load brought by VR content has a detrimental impact on how they memorise important quantitative data.”

The report recommends VR is most effective if used in short sessions to complement the conventional delivery of lectures and seminars.

The study was carried out at the University of Northampton and saw more than 50 students from the institution take part in an experiment.

The students were split into two groups and both attended separate short lectures on the history of Stonehenge.

Group A’s lecture was delivered using a PowerPoint slide presentation. Group B were provided with the same content, but delivered via VR headsets. The research then evaluated the knowledge acquisition through tests and interviews.

Dr Mu Mu said: “Our aim is to synergise the strengths of immersive technologies and conventional tools for better learning experience and outcomes. I am very pleased to see Yoana’s research project recognised internationally.”