YOUTH PERCEPTIONS ON LEARNING IN IMMERSIVE VIRTUAL REALITY: DEVELOPING AND ASSESSING ESSENTIAL SOCIOEMOTIONAL SKILLS
This qualitative study investigated youth perceptions of educational virtual reality (VR) for developing socioemotional skills. A constructivist theoretical framework was utilized to guide the research design according to five key elements: learning in relevant settings, the social negotiation of learning, ownership in learning, multimodal representation, and metacognition. An exploratory case study approach was used. A grade 8 class of 28 students were invited to participate as the co-researchers for this study. The methods for data collection were semi structured artifact analysis, observations, surveys, and interviews. Research activities involved guided exploration of sustainability issues in AltspaceVR, collaborative painting in MultibrushVR, and an artifact contribution to a co-created learning experience in FrameVR. Empathy was the most predominant type of social-emotional learning (SEL) demonstrated by the co-researchers: Teamwork, creativity, and problem-solving skills were also evident. The youth exemplified new empathetic insights and activism for people, the environment, and animals based on their learning in immersive contexts. Findings indicate a rationale for educational VR to include SEL competencies, which VR excels at through its capacity for perspective-taking. The research activities within the virtual environments contributed to the co-researchers’ sense of social presence through open communication, affective expression, and group cohesion. Although the scholarly literature identifies personalized avatars as influential for enhancing social presence in VR environments, there was a lack of consensus on avatar value. The data collected in this study may serve as a basis for further research on understanding the capacity of educational VR to promote empathy and SEL in youth.
youth, learning, virtual reality, socioemotional skills, empathy, social presence
Master of Education (M.Ed.)