TitelLearning about Victims of Holocaust in Virtual Reality: The Main, Mediating and Moderating Effects of Technology, Instructional Method, Flow, Presence, and Prior Knowledge
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2023
AuthorsMulders, M
JournalMultimodal Technologies and Interaction
Keywordsvirtual reality; head-mounted displays; learning; Anne Frank; instructional design; media vs. methods; learning processes; flow; presence; prior knowledge; media comparison; complex interaction structures

The goal of the current study was to investigate the effects of a virtual reality (VR) simulation of Anne Frank’s hiding place on learning. In a 2 × 2 experiment, 132 middle school students learned about the living conditions of Anne Frank, a girl of Jewish heritage during the Second World War, through desktop VR (DVR) and head-mounted display VR (HMD-VR) (media conditions). Approximately half of each group engaged in an explorative vs. an expository learning approach (method condition). The exposition group received instructions on how to explore the hiding place stepwise, whereas the exploration group experienced it autonomously. Next to the main effects of media and methods, the mediating effects of the learning process variables of presence and flow and the moderating effects of contextual variables (e.g., prior technical knowledge) have been analyzed. The results revealed that the HMD-VR led to significantly improved evaluation, and—even if not statistically significant—perspective-taking in Anne, but less knowledge gain compared to DVR. Further results showed that adding instructions and segmentation within the exposition group led to significantly increased knowledge gain compared to the exploration group. For perspective-taking and evaluation, no differences were detected. A significant interaction between media and methods was not found. No moderating effects by contextual variables but mediating effects were observed: For example, the feeling of presence within VR can fully explain the relationships between media and learning. These results support the view that learning processes are crucial for learning in VR and that studies neglecting these learning processes may be confounded. Hence, the results pointed out that media comparison studies are limited because they do not consider the complex interaction structures of media, instructional methods, learning processes, and contextual variables.

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