Abstract: Drawbacks of online education, especially at scale, include the isolation and loss of community that come with taking classes from one’s home rather than in a typical coordinated classroom. In this series of studies, we explore the potential of an immersive virtual environment to recreate shared educational contexts in an online program, emphasizing those that focus on universal dynamics like discussions, Q&A, and lecture-watching. Using Mozilla Hubs-which offers virtual reality as well as a browser-based immersive environment for participants without VR headsets-we implement three common, student-driven on-campus environments: a lecture hall, a student lounge, and a poster session. We test these environments with students in an online graduate program through surveys and a controlled experiment. We find significant interest in the potential of these environments, but hurdles to their adoption as well.
The full paper “Content-Neutral Immersive Environments for Cultivating Scalable Camaraderie” can be found here.